New audio has been released from the surface of Mars, and the sound is more hauntingly familiar than you might expect.
NASA’s Insight lander has captured audio that it labelled an “unplanned treat”, where motion sensors on the vessel were able to detect sound waves. What has been captured is the sound of the red planet — distinct, low, humming winds.
The audio is best listened to with headphones on and sub woofer speakers. The sound is eerily similar to the slow and relentless winds of a dusty plane.
A second version of the audio was also released with the audio pitched slightly higher, where the sound is more perceivable to the human ear.
NASA estimates the winds were blowing slowly at around “5 to 7 meters a second” from the northwest to the southeast of the surface of the planet on December 1.
The recorded sounds were “consistent with the direction of dust devil streaks in the landing area, which were observed from orbit”, NASA said.
NASA’s Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) lander successfully touched down on Mars in late November having made the incredible journey through 485-million-kilometers of space.
A media teleconference was held yesterday to discuss the recorded sounds at 12:30pm. EST (4.40am AEDST).
“Capturing this audio was an unplanned treat,” said Bruce Banerdt, InSight principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.
“But one of the things our mission is dedicated to is measuring motion on Mars, and naturally that includes motion caused by sound waves.”
HOW DID NASA RECORD THE MARS WINDS?
The audio was captured by two different pieces of state of the art, hyper sensitive recording equipment aboard the lander. The first is an air pressure sensor inside the lander, which collects “meteorological data”.
The second is a seismometer sitting on the lander’s deck, awaiting deployment by InSight’s robotic arm, which records vibrations that move over the landers 7 metre solar panels. They stick out from the lander and are referred to by NASA as looking like “a pair of ears.”
“The InSight lander acts like a giant ear,” said Tom Pike, InSight science team member and sensor designer at Imperial College, London.
“The solar panels on the lander’s sides respond to pressure fluctuations of the wind. It’s like InSight is cupping its ears and hearing the Mars wind beating on it. When we looked at the direction of the lander vibrations coming from the solar panels, it matches the expected wind direction at our landing site.”
The reason for having a seismometer on the lander is to see if earthquakes (which on Mars are called Marsquakes) behave in the same way as they do on earth. According to the NASA site, “When earthquakes occur on Earth, their vibrations, which bounce around inside our planet, make it “ring” similar to how a bell creates sound. InSight will see if tremors, or marsquakes, have a similar effect on Mars.”
MORE TO COME FROM NASA — INCLUDING ZAPPING THINGS WITH LASERS
There are more scheduled recordings to come from the surface of Mars. The scheduled Mars 2020 Rover will have on board microphones for the purpose of recording the sound of the landing.
The craft will also have an on board camera that will serve the extremely sci-fi purpose of “detect the sound of the instrument’s laser as it zaps different materials”.
Upon the landing of Insight, JPL director Michael Watkins said, “Every Mars landing is daunting, but now with InSight safely on the surface we get to do a unique kind of science on Mars.”
“The experimental MarCO CubeSats have also opened a new door to smaller planetary spacecraft. The success of these two unique missions is a tribute to the hundreds of talented engineers and scientists who put their genius and labour into making this a great day.”