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This Is What A Dust Devil Sounds Like On Mars

A smoky trail is visible in a serpentine shape against a red surface
A dust devil captured moving across Mars by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in 2012. Now scientists have a recording of a dust devil's sound from the surface of Mars.
(Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)
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Swirling columns of dust — known as dust devils — are fairly common on Mars, but for the first time ever one of NASA’s rovers managed to record the sound of one passing right over it. It’s another piece of data that helps expand our understanding of the red planet.

Listen To The Dust Devil

Why This Matters

Recordings like this can help scientists better understand the planet’s meteorology, surface changes and how grains of dust are sent aloft on a planet with such a thin atmosphere.

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A selfie style image from NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover shows the rover to the right with the Martian landscape in the background.
Using its WATSON camera, NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover took this selfie over a rock nicknamed “Rochette,” on Sept.10, 2021, the 198th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. Two holes can be seen where the rover used its robotic arm to drill rock core samples.
(Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

While NASA's Perseverance rover recorded the dust devil on September 27, 2021, audio of the encounter is just now being published Nature Communications.

How This Recording Got Made

In 2021, NASA’s Perseverance rover touched down and began its search for ancient microbial life. Equipped with a suite of tools called SuperCam, it can zap rocks and analyze their molecular makeup, giving us a peek into Mars’s past. It's also equipped with a microphone, which happened to be active when the dust devil passed over.

Here's a look at an animation of dust devil capture on camera by Curiosity in 2020 courtesy JPL.

Why Things Sound Different On Mars

Because the atmosphere’s so thin and mostly made up of carbon dioxide, sound doesn’t travel nearly as far as it does here on Earth, especially at higher frequencies.

“You basically could not hear a person a block away,” said Roger Wiens, the Principal Investigator of the SuperCam instrument. “We really do turn up the volume, you could say, on this microphone.”

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