In a first for planetary exploration, the NASA Perseverance rover on Mars was able to record a Martian dust devil using its microphone.

On Earth, a dust devil makes a similar sound to the swirling vortex, but a little less dramatically. But based on data from the rover’s entire complement of sensors, including its navigation camera, and computer modeling, scientists believe the dust devil was more than 30 stories tall and measured 25 meters (82 feet) in width and 118 meters (387 feet) in height.

The research was done by a team lead by Naomi Murdoch, a planetary scientist at the University of Toulouse in France, and it was published this week in the journal Nature Communications.

The study states that this accidental contact with a dust devil “demonstrates the potential of acoustic data for resolving the fast wind structure of the Martian atmosphere.”

On September 27, 2021, the sandy windstorm at Jezero crater struck perseverance square in the face. The Insight lander didn’t see a single dust devil in the arid plain it calls home for an entire Martian year, suggesting that Jezero experiences dust devils more regularly than other places on Mars.

The researchers were also able to distinguish specific grains of dust or sand in the whirlwind impacting the microphone, aiding scientists in better understanding wind and weather patterns on the Red Planet, which is known for large and occasionally worldwide dust storms.

They state, “Grain impacts are implicated in the degrading of hardware on Mars’ surface.” “Measuring the probability or rate of grain impacts may aid in the planning of operations or future instrumentation designs.”

Next, researchers are hoping that Perseverance will run into another dust devil at a different area so they can compare how the structure of the little Martian twisters is impacted by varied gastronomic conditions.


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