NASA's Mars Rover Records First-Ever Audio Clip Of A 387-Foot Tall Martian Dust Devil

mars dust devils
NASA's Perseverance Mars rover caught the first-ever audio of a Martian dust devil while its weather sensors and left navigation were in operation. The dust devil passed directly over the rover on September 27, 2021.

Capturing a Martian dust devil is no easy feat. In order to do so, rovers like Perseverance and Curiosity routinely monitor in all directions for them. Once scientists detect them more frequently at a certain time or day, or approach from a particular direction, they use that data in order to focus the rover's monitoring in an attempt to catch one of them in action. Such was the case in September of 2021, when Perseverance was able to catch a 387 ft tall dust devil passing directly over it. If you listen closely enough, you can actually hear the sound of dust grains hitting the rover.
The video above includes four rows based on different data sources. The top row is a raw image taken by the left navigation camera's view of the Martian Surface. The second row captures the same image processed with change-detection software to indicate where movement occurred during the course of the recording. The third row is a graph showing a sudden drop in air pressure recorded by the rover's weather sensor suite. The fourth row indicates sound amplitude from SuperCam's microphone.

Martian dust devils were first noticed from orbit by the Viking spacecraft. Since that time, nearly every Mars rover has had the opportunity to experience them in some way. Twin rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, actually benefited from them, as the whirlwinds cleared off the solar panels of the rovers and kept them operational for a longer period of time.

The estimated size of the dust devil which passed over Perseverance was 82 feet (25 meters) wide, at least 387 feet (118 meters) tall, and moving at a speed of 12 mph (19 kph). The results of the recording have been published in a recent paper in Nature Communications.