08Dec2018

First Sounds Heard From The Red Planet

New audio has been released from the surface of Mars, and the sound is more hauntingly familiar than you might expect. NASA’s Insight lander’s audio is labelled an “unplanned treat”, where motion sensors on-board detected sound waves.

What has been captured is the sound of the red planet — distinct, low, humming winds. The audio was captured by two different pieces of state of the art, hypersensitive recording equipment aboard the lander.

The wind is estimated to be blowing 16 kph to 24 kph. These are the first sounds from Mars that are detectible by human ears, according to the researchers. “Reminds me of sitting outside on a windy summer afternoon … In some sense, this is what it would sound like if you were sitting on the InSight lander on Mars,” Cornell University’s Don Banfield told reporters.

Scientists involved in the project agree the sound has an otherworldly quality to it. Thomas Pike of Imperial College London said the rumbling is “rather different to anything that we’ve experienced on Earth, and I think it just gives us another way of thinking about how far away we are getting these signals.”

The audio was captured by two different pieces of state of the art, hypersensitive recording equipment aboard the lander.

The audio was captured by two different pieces of state of the art, hypersensitive recording equipment . Source:Supplied

The noise is of the wind blowing against InSight’s solar panels and the resulting vibration of the entire spacecraft. The audio is best listened to with headphones on and sub woofer speakers.

The sound is eerily similar to the slow and relentless winds of a dusty plane. A second version of the audio was also released with the audio pitched slightly higher, where the sound is more perceivable to the human ear.

ABOVE: Listen to raw, unprocessed data from the seismometer on NASA’s InSight spacecraft of vibrations caused by wind moving over the solar panels on Mars. Earphones will enhance this clip.

The sounds were recorded by two of the three short-period sensorsNASA estimates the winds were blowing slowly at around “5 to 7 meters a second” from the northwest to the southeast of the surface of the planet on December 1. The recorded sounds were “consistent with the direction of dust devil streaks in the landing area, which were observed from orbit”, NASA said.

NASA’s Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) lander successfully touched down on Mars in late November having made the incredible journey through 485-million-kilometers of space. A media teleconference was held yesterday to discuss the recorded sounds at 12:30pm. EST (4.40am AEDST).

InSight’s robotic arm, which records vibrations that move over the landers 7 metre solar panels.

InSight’s robotic arm, which records vibrations that move over the landers 7 metre solar panels.Source:Supplied

“Capturing this audio was an unplanned treat,” said Bruce Banerdt, InSight principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) 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.”

HOW DID NASA RECORD THE MARS WINDS?

The audio was captured by two different pieces of state of the art, hyper sensitive recording equipment aboard the lander. The first is an air pressure sensor inside the lander, which collects “meteorological data”.

The second is a seismometer sitting on the lander’s deck, awaiting deployment by InSight’s robotic arm, which records vibrations that move over the landers 7 metre solar panels. They stick out from the lander and are referred to by NASA as looking like “a pair of ears.”

“The InSight lander acts like a giant ear,” said Tom Pike, InSight science team member and sensor designer at Imperial College, London.

This illustration is a still frame from NASA's Experience InSight app

This illustration is a still frame from NASA’s Experience InSight appSource:Supplied

“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 reason for having a seismometer on the lander is to see if earthquakes (which on Mars are called Marsquakes) behave in the same way as they do on earth. According to the NASA site, “When earthquakes occur on Earth, their vibrations, which bounce around inside our planet, make it “ring” similar to how a bell creates sound. InSight will see if tremors, or marsquakes, have a similar effect on Mars.”

MORE TO COME FROM NASA — INCLUDING ZAPPING THINGS WITH LASERS

There are more scheduled recordings to come from the surface of Mars. The scheduled Mars 2020 Rover will have on board microphones for the purpose of recording the sound of the landing. The craft will also have an on board camera that will serve the extremely sci-fi purpose of “detect the sound of the instrument’s laser as it zaps different materials”.

Upon the landing of Insight, JPL director Michael Watkins said, “Every Mars landing is daunting, but now with InSight safely on the surface we get to do a unique kind of science on Mars.” “The experimental MarCO CubeSats have also opened a new door to smaller planetary spacecraft. The success of these two unique missions is a tribute to the hundreds of talented engineers and scientists who put their genius and labour into making this a great day.” Adapted: News.Com

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