DENVER, May 25, 2022 – Since NASA’s Perseverance rover landed on Mars, the two microphones have recorded hours of sound that provides valuable information about the Martian atmosphere.
Baptiste Chide, of Los Alamos National Lab, will discuss the importance of this acoustic information in the presentation “Mars soundscape: Review of the first sounds recorded by the Perseverance microphones,” at the 182nd Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America on May 25. . at 3:45 PM Eastern USA at the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel.
After more than a year of recording on the surface, the team narrowed the data down to a playlist of Mars with about five hours of sounds. Usually Mars is very quiet. Sounds are 20 decibels lower than on Earth for the same source, and there are few natural sounds except the wind.
“It’s so quiet that at one point we thought the microphone was broken!” said Chide.
However, after listening carefully to the data, the group discovered fascinating phenomena. There was a lot of variation in the wind and the atmosphere could change abruptly from calm to intense with fast gusts. By listening to well-characterized and intentional laser sparks, Perseverance calculated the spread of the speed of sound, confirming the theory that high-frequency sounds travel faster than those at low frequencies.
“Mars is the only place in the solar system where that happens in the audible bandwidth because of the unique properties of the carbon dioxide molecule that makes up the atmosphere,” Chide said.
The seasons of the red planet affect the soundscape. Because carbon dioxide freezes in the polar caps in winter, the density of the atmosphere changes and ambient noise varies by about 20%. That molecule also muffles high tones with distance.
Perseverance continues to collect audio recordings as it moves through different regions of Mars. Chide believes this technique will be even more informative on planets and moons with denser atmospheres, such as Venus and Titan, where sound waves interact more strongly and propagate further.
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