Listen as a dust storm covers the Perseverance rover: Eerie audio from Mars

(ORDO NEWS) — The powerful dust storm that covered the Perseverance rover in September 2021 was simply colossal!

Its height was 119 meters, this is evidenced by the first ever audio recording of a dust whirlwind (or dust devil), made on the surface of Mars.

The entry, analyzed Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, also reveals entirely new information about how these such phenomena move dust across the Red Planet.

“We can hear the noise of particles colliding with the rover,” said lead author of the study, physicist Naomi Murdoch.

“The sound of these impacts allows us to count how many particles were in the vortex itself.” Murdoch added that such a measurement was carried out on Mars for the first time.

Importance of Dust

Listen as a dust storm covers the Perseverance rover eerie audio from Mars 2

Dust is everywhere on Mars! Its movement both influences and is influenced by the weather and climate of the Red Planet.

Understanding the movement of dust is important for modeling the Martian climate as well as planning missions to the planet, Murdoch said.

For example, Perseverance’s wind sensors were damaged by dust, and the InSight lander is shutting down due to dust accumulating on its solar panels.

Dust whirlwinds on the planet occur when warm air near the surface rises and begins to rotate, picking up dust.

Jezero Crater, which is being explored by the Perseverance rover, is one of the “hot spots” of the vortices. To date, at least 91 vortices have been recorded near the rover.

But on September 27, 2021, something unprecedented happened: a “dust devil” flew right over the rover.

Luckily, not only did the instruments collect data during the collision, the Perseverance navigation cameras also took some shots, and the SuperCam microphone recorded the sound of the event!

Spooky Mars

Combining these three sources of data, Murdoch and her team found that the storm was 25 meters across, nearly 10 times the width of the rover.

At 119 meters high, the whirlwind was about the same height as a 40-story building. The powerful storm was moving at a speed of 19 km/h, and the peak wind speed reached 40 km/h.

“However, it is worth noting that the atmosphere on Mars is much thinner than on Earth,” Murdoch said.

“This means that even if the wind speed is high, due to the small amount of particles in the Martian atmosphere, the wind force is much less than on Earth.”

Interestingly, in a typical vortex, most of the dust is on the outside (along the “walls”). But the dust hit the rover in three distinct flashes – two “walls” and a cloud of dust at the center of the dust devil.

The accumulation of dust inside a dust devil is an unusual find, Murdoch said.

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