Monday, 10 December, 2018

Sounds of Mars: NASA's InSight Senses Martian Wind

An illustration of the In Sight lander its sensors cameras and instruments An illustration of the In Sight lander its sensors cameras and instruments. Credit NASA JPL-Caltech
Elijah Vega | 08 December, 2018, 00:18

NASA's new Mars lander has captured the first sounds of the Martian wind.

The US space agency said the strong gusts of wind, blowing between 10 to 15 miles per hour (five to seven meters a second), were captured as they moved over the solar panels on InSight, an unmanned lander that touched down on Earth's dusty, desolate neighbour on 26 November.

The seismometer readings are in the range of human hearing, but are almost all bass and hard to hear on laptop speakers and mobile devices. But the video also raises the audio two octaves to make it easier to hear. Playback is suggested on a sound system with a subwoofer or through headphones. Because wind gusts can trick the seismometer, the lander is equipped with an air pressure sensor to isolate that background noise. The instrument will eventually be placed on the planet's surface to listen for marsquakes. Additionally, NASA reported that the winds were likely blowing from the northwest in the direction of the southeast, the way the streaks in the landing area seem to move as well.

The wind vibrations were detected by two sensitive sensors on the InSight spacecraft: an air pressure sensor inside the lander and a seismometer sitting on the lander's deck.

InSight landed on Mars on November 26. One has been included specifically to record the sound of a Martian landing for the first time.

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"It really sounds other worldly, and that is exactly what it is".

The sound of the wind is similar to what wind, or maybe crashing waves, would sound like on Earth.

But the scientists warned not to get too attached to these recordings, because they won't last long. The seismometer is waiting to be deployed to the lander's robotic arm, and once that happens it will be covered with a domed shield to protect it from wind and temperature changes, so it won't be able to pick up this sound. "It's like InSight is cupping its ears and hearing the Mars wind beating on it", he said.

But an even clearer sound from Mars is to come. "It just gives another way of thinking about how far away [we are when] we're getting these signals".

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