In situ recording of Mars soundscape

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  • the SuperCam team

Before the Perseverance rover landing, the acoustic environment of Mars was unknown. Models predicted that: (1) atmospheric turbulence changes at centimetre scales or smaller at the point where molecular viscosity converts kinetic energy into heat1, (2) the speed of sound varies at the surface with frequency2,3 and (3) high-frequency waves are strongly attenuated with distance in CO2 (refs. 2–4). However, theoretical models were uncertain because of a lack of experimental data at low pressure and the difficulty to characterize turbulence or attenuation in a closed environment. Here, using Perseverance microphone recordings, we present the first characterization of the acoustic environment on Mars and pressure fluctuations in the audible range and beyond, from 20 Hz to 50 kHz. We find that atmospheric sounds extend measurements of pressure variations down to 1,000 times smaller scales than ever observed before, showing a dissipative regime extending over five orders of magnitude in energy. Using point sources of sound (Ingenuity rotorcraft, laser-induced sparks), we highlight two distinct values for the speed of sound that are about 10 m s−1 apart below and above 240 Hz, a unique characteristic of low-pressure CO2-dominated atmosphere. We also provide the acoustic attenuation with distance above 2 kHz, allowing us to explain the large contribution of the CO2 vibrational relaxation in the audible range. These results establish a ground truth for the modelling of acoustic processes, which is critical for studies in atmospheres such as those of Mars and Venus.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNature
Volume605
Issue number7911
Pages (from-to)653-658
Number of pages6
ISSN0028-0836
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 26 May 2022

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