Sound on Mars travels slower than on Earth, deep silence prevails mostly

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Sound on Mars travels slower than on Earth, deep silence prevails mostly (Image: NASA)
Sound on Mars travels slower than on Earth, deep silence prevails mostly (Image: NASA)

New Delhi : The speed of sound on Red planet (Mars) is slower than on Earth, a study based on sound recorded by NASA’s Perseverance revealed. It also claimed that on Mars 'a deep silence prevails.'

An international team of researchers tried listening the sound traveling through the extremely thin, mostly carbon dioxide atmosphere to understand how human ears could listen to it. They also tried to find out how scientists can use audio recordings to probe subtle air-pressure changes on another world – and to gauge the health of the rover.

"It’s a new sense of investigation we’ve never used before on Mars,” said Sylvestre Maurice, an astrophysicist at the University of Toulouse in France and lead author of the study was quoted in a press release shared by NASA. "I expect many discoveries to come, using the atmosphere as a source of sound and the medium of propagation."

According to a study published in the journal Nature, most of the sounds were recorded using the microphone on Perseverance’s SuperCam, mounted on the head of the rover’s mast. The study also refers to sounds recorded by another microphone mounted on the chassis of the rover. This second microphone recently recorded the puffs and pings of the rover’s Gaseous Dust Removal Tool, or gDRT, which blows shavings off rocks that the rover has scraped in order to examine.

The variable sound speeds on the Red Planet are an effect of the thin, cold, carbon dioxide atmosphere. Prior to the mission, scientists expected Mars’ atmosphere would influence sound speed, but the phenomenon had never been observed until these recordings were made. Another effect of this thin atmosphere: Sounds carry only a short distance, and higher-pitched tones carry hardly at all. On Earth, sound might drop off after about 213 feet (65 meters); on Mars, it falters at just 26 feet (8 meters), with high-pitched sounds being lost completely at that distance.

Silence Prevails on Mars

One of the most striking features of the sound recordings, Maurice said, is the silence that seems to prevail on Mars. “At some point, we thought the microphone was broken, it was so quiet,” he added.

“Mars is very quiet because of low atmospheric pressure,” said Baptiste Chide of Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, also a co-author of the study. “But the pressure changes with the seasons on Mars.”

Perseverance’s mission objective

The Perseverance Rover has been sent to Mars to primarily collect data on microbial life on the planet. The rover will characterize the planet’s geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust).