Listen To The Sounds Of Wind On Mars, Recorded by NASA’s InSight Lander
Before you listen, hook up a subwoofer or put on a pair of bass-heavy headphones. Otherwise, you might not hear anything.
That’s the sound of winds blowing across NASA’s InSight lander on Mars, the first sounds recorded from the red planet. It’s all the more remarkable because InSight — which landed last week — does not have a microphone.
Rather, an instrument designed for measuring the shaking of marsquakes picked up vibrations in the air — sound waves, in other words.
Winds blowing between 10 and 15 miles per hour over InSight’s solar panels caused the spacecraft to vibrate, and short-period seismometers recorded the vibrations.
The seismometers act as the cochlea, the parts of your ears that convert the vibrations into nerve signals. They are able to record vibrations up to a frequency of 50 Hertz — audible to human ears as a low rumble.
NASA also produced a version of the recording that lifted the sounds by two octaves.
A second instrument, an air pressure sensor that is part of InSight’s weather station, also picked up sound vibrations, although at a much lower frequency that can be heard perhaps by elephants and whales, but not people.
Here is a sound recording of those pressure readings, sped up by a factor of 100, which raises the pitch by about six octaves.
The sounds are so low in part because the instruments are not sensitive to higher frequencies. But the air on Mars is also extremely thin — about 1 percent of the density of Earth’s — and that favors low-frequency sounds.
The two Viking landers that NASA sent to Mars in 1976 also carried seismometers that captured some wind noise. But Dr. Banerdt said those recordings were at much lower sampling rates and did not pick up anything at audible frequencies.
NASA’s next rover, to launch in 2020, will also carry a microphone.
This is not the first time sound has been recorded on another planet. Back in the 1980s, two Soviet spacecraft, Venera 13 and Venera 14, recorded sounds from the surface of Venus.
And Europe’s Huygens lander, which was carried to Saturn’s biggest moon, Titan, by the Cassini spacecraft, also sent back sounds picked up by a microphone.
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