First, listen to the Mars rover hit by a 387-foot dust devil

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Scientists have seen a lot Dust devils On Mars, now, for the first time, they’ve heard one. The vortex hit directly NASA’s Perseverance RoverDusting the spacecraft and whispering into a microphone, the crew has cleverly added to their repertoire of tools.

The data from the rendezvous has thrilled scientists, who are well aware of the external impact of Martian dust on the planet’s climate. The fine particles can damage scientific instruments on Mars landers and rovers and blanket solar panels to the point of ineffectiveness. Studying the rover’s hazardous records provides insights into how dust could affect Mars missions, and even future human exploration.

Dust Devil’s Noise, published on Tuesday An article in the journal Nature Communications, subtle. It’s scratchy and rhythmic, like radio static, although one can freely imagine a breeze stirring some distant palm fronds.

Then a few seconds of silence as the dust devil’s eye passes over the rover. The sound returns for another two seconds as the Dust Devil rear wall spins back onto the rover. Then it’s all over and Mars is quiet again.

NASA’s Perseverance rover recorded the sound of a dust devil on Mars. Video: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL/CNES/CNRS/INTA-CSIC/Space Science Institute/ISAE-SUPAERO (Video: NASA)

This is not an “extreme weather” event. Mars has a negligible atmosphere, 1 percent denser than Earth’s, hence the storms there Don’t scream. The rover sustained no damage.

However, there is plenty of signal in this narrow band of noise and in the visual images taken by the Supercam instrument aboard the rover. Researchers estimate that the dust devil is 25 meters (82 feet) wide and 118 meters (387 feet) tall. It is taller than the Statue of Liberty and includes a pedestal.

“As the dust devil passes over Persistence, we can actually hear individual impacts of the grains on the rover,” said Naomi Murdoch, a planetary scientist at ISAE-SUPAERO, a space engineering agency in Toulouse, France, and author of the new report. “We can actually count them.”

A dust devil is like a small storm cell. It usually appears in the middle of the day when warm air circulates from the surface. A scientist who wants to speak more technically might call this a dust-laden convective vortex. Dust is not the cause of the swirl, but just along for the ride.

Murdoch said the team’s success in capturing the sound of a dust devil reflects both luck and preparation. The rover’s microphone takes less than three minutes of recordings, which it does only eight times a month. But the recordings are timed when dust devils are most likely to occur, and the rover’s cameras are pointed in the direction where they are most likely to be seen.

“Then we’ll have to cross our fingers,” she said.

That clearly did the trick, because persistence was able to capture the dust devil with several tools, including drops in air pressure, changes in temperature, the sound of grains impacting, all topped off with images showing the size and shape of the vortex. .

“I can’t think of a previous case where so much data from multiple instruments contributed to the characterization of a dust devil,” planetary scientist John Edward Moores of the University of York said in an email after reviewing the new paper. He said the team was lucky that all the observations overlapped.

“There is [camera] Pointed in a different direction or projected after a few seconds of microphone monitoring, key parts of the story would be missing. Sometimes it helps to be lucky in science!

Mars rover digs up puzzling clues in search of life beyond Earth

As the tenacious team cheers for their windy encounter, the calm weather has changed A problem with another NASA robot on Mars. The Inside LanderHit over 2,000 miles in November 2018 and has the tools to do so Research earthquakes and the interior of the planet.

InSight has lasted two years past its primary mission deadline, but is now in the final weeks of its scientific life because its solar panels are 90 percent covered in dust. All it needs is a direct hit by a dust devil, because such eddies are capable of cleaning solar panels.

“A dust devil is like a miniature vacuum cleaner,” said Bruce Bannert, a planetary geophysicist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and principal investigator of InSight.

But Insight hasn’t received a visit from a devil capable of cleaning up its ranks. Currently there is enough power to run the seismometer for eight hours, but the batteries need to rest for three days while they recharge, Banert said.

“We’re still limping along at this point,” he said.

This dispersion pattern of dust devils on Mars is mysterious, Murdoch said. Even planetary scientists cannot predict when the red planet will be A global dust storm“Our understanding of how and when dust is picked up from the surface of Mars is poor,” he said.

But that’s changing, and she believes the microphone her team built continues to pick up the sounds of that distant desert planet.

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