For the first time in human history, earthlings can now hear the sound of Mars. On an alien world more than 34 million miles away, wind sweeps across a red, desolate landscape, and a brave robot is there to record it and play it back to us.
Ten days after arriving on Mars, the InSight lander has sent back the first-ever audio recording from the red planet. The short audio file was captured purely by chance and reveals the eerie hum of the Martian wind; “a haunting low rumble caused by vibrations” in the air.
Released by NASA earlier today, the recording was made public in both raw audio sample and a slightly modified version that is more perceptible to the human ear.
According to the space agency, the sound of Mars was recorded on December 1, when two highly sensitive instruments aboard the InSight lander picked up vibrations coming from the wind as it blew across Elysium Planitia at 10 to 15 miles per hour.
The wind vibrations were recorded by the probe’s air pressure sensor and its SEIS seismometer, each of the two instruments detecting the martian wind in a different way. The result is an unforgettable soundtrack that brings a little bit of Mars back to Earth.
“Capturing this audio was an unplanned treat,” said Bruce Banerdt, InSight principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory 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.”
#Mars, I hear you and I’m feeling the good vibrations left in the wake of your Martian winds. Take a listen to the #SoundsOfMars I’ve picked up. ????
More on https://t.co/auhFdfiUMg pic.twitter.com/shVmYbfHRs
— NASA InSight (@NASAInSight) December 7, 2018
As the Inquisitr reported earlier today, InSight’s air pressure sensor has been scanning the martian environment for about a week and had already detected a drop in air pressure that was put down to a passing dust devil.
Part of the spacecraft’s Auxiliary Payload Sensor Subsystem, this instrument is tasked with gathering meteorological data at the InSight landing site. While listening to the thin martian air to detect any minute change in pressure, the sensor picked up the wind noise directly from the atmosphere.
The recording below is a modified version of the sensor’s data. Since the original soundtrack was below the range of human hearing, the audio was sped up by a factor of 100, which shortened the track’s duration and shifted up its frequency 100 times, or a little more than six octaves.
Meanwhile, InSight’s seismometer tuned in to the sound of Mars by picking up the lander’s vibrations as the wind swept over the spacecraft’s solar panels.
As NASA points out, the probe’s solar arrays, which were deployed shortly after InSight touched down on Mars on November 26, measure seven feet across each, sticking out from the lander’s sides “like a giant pair of ears.”
Raw data from the SEIS seismometer is available at the link below.
A more audible version of the SEIS recording, which was raised two octaves, can be heard at the link below.
While the seismometer hasn’t officially begun conducting science, the instrument is fitted with two types of sensors, only one of which was able to “hear” the martian wind. Known as short period silicon sensors, these were provided by Imperial College London in the U.K. and can still work even though SEIS has not yet been deployed, being capable of picking up vibrations of up to 50 hertz.
“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 martian wind was recorded by InSight as it blew across the landing sight moving from northwest to southeast.
“The winds were consistent with the direction of dust devil streaks in the landing area, which were observed from orbit,” stated NASA officials.