NASA scientists released audio Friday of rumbles captured by its InSight lander on the surface of Mars.
The sound recorded with InSight’s sensors on December 1 comes from vibrations caused by wind that NASA estimates was blowing at about 10 to 15 mph (16 to 24 km/h).
InSight, which is an acronym for “Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport,” successfully landed on Mars’ Elysium Planitia on November 26 after a six-month journey through space.
“Capturing this audio was an unplanned treat,” said Bruce Banerdt, InSight’s principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in a statement released Friday.
“But one of the things our mission is dedicated to is measuring motion on Mars, and naturally that includes motion caused by sound waves.”
The spacecraft is equipped with two sensors: one for air pressure and a seismometer to measure ground motion.
The seismometer picked up on wind vibrations gliding over InSight’s solar panels, which NASA says look like “a giant pair of ears” sticking out from its sides.
“The solar panels on the lander’s sides respond to pressure fluctuations of the wind,” said Tom Pike, who is part of the InSight science team.
“It’s like InSight is cupping its ears and hearing the Mars wind beating on it.”
While the seismometer is a part of the lander now, it will soon be deployed to the surface of Mars, where it will be covered by a protective dome to better measure the planet’s tremors, also known as “marsquakes”.
Ultimately, scientists hope to better understand the interior of Mars.
Unaltered, the sound recorded by InSight is at the lower range of human hearing capabilities, similar to what you might hear from a subwoofer.
NASA also released an edited version that had been raised two octaves to be more perceptible to the human ear.
Looking forward, NASA plans to equip the Mars 2020 rover with two microphones to garner more data on the sounds of the Red Planet.
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