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First Audio Recordings of Mars Reveals Red Planet Has Two Speeds of Sound

By: April Carson

Scientists announced Friday that the first audible recordings on Mars revealed a quiet planet where two distinct speeds of sound would have a strange delayed effect on hearing.

Its two microphones began recording as NASA's Perseverance rover touched down on Mars in February last year, allowing scientists to listen to what it's like on the Red Planet for the first time.

The team used computational methods to analyze the five hours of sound captured by Perseverance's microphones in their study published in the Nature magazine on Friday.

The recordings showed that the speed of sound on Mars is about one-third slower than on Earth, which means that a sound that takes three seconds to reach someone's ears on Earth would take four seconds to reach their ears on Mars.

This means that if someone shouted on Mars, the echo would return after seven seconds instead of the five seconds it would take on Earth.

The slower speed of sound is due to the lower air pressure on Mars, which is about 1/100th of the pressure on Earth.

While the lower air pressure means that sounds travel more slowly, it also means that there is less noise interference on Mars than on Earth.

According to the audio, Maurice says, there was previously unknown turbulence on Mars. The main microphone is housed in a shoebox-sized SuperCam mounted on the rover's mast, which contains Maurice as one of its scientific co-directors.

"They heard the rover's laser zap rocks to determine their chemical composition, which made a 'clack clack' sound," Maurice told AFP. "The international team studied Ingenuity's flight data and Perseverance's sister craft, Ingenuity," according to a press release from the Brazilian space agency."

"The effect of the blast wave was heard as far away as two kilometers (six miles), and we actually knew when it was going to fire," he added.

Earth Sounds vs Mars Sounds

The speed of sound on Mars was found to be 240 meters per second, as opposed to Earth's 340 meters per second, for the first time.

This was anticipated since Mars' atmosphere is 95 percent carbon dioxide, as opposed to Earth's 0.04 percent, and it is about 100 times less thick, making sound 20 decibels quieter, according to the study.

The sound produced by the laser, on the other hand, traveled 250 meters per second—faster than anticipated.

"I got a little frightened," Maurice added. "Because on Earth, you only have one speed of sound, I told myself that one of the two measurements was incorrect."

They'd learned that Mars has two different sound speeds: one for high-pitched noises like the zap of the laser, and another for lower frequencies like the rotor's whir.

This means that human ears would pick up high-pitched sounds somewhat sooner.

"This was a big surprise for all of us," Maurice continued. "It means that the environment on Mars is very different than we thought."

"On Earth, the sounds of an orchestra reach you at the same rate, no matter how low or high they are. But suppose you're sitting far away from the stage on Mars and there's a significant delay." Maurice went on to explain that while it may appear insignificant, this discrepancy is quite perceptible.

"All of these elements would make it difficult for two individuals to converse merely five meters (16 feet) apart," according to the French CNRS research institute.

The reward was worth the effort

It was otherwise so quiet on Mars that the researchers were concerned something was wrong, according to the CNRS, recalling two previous failures in 1999 and 2008 to record sound there.

The scientists added in a news release linked to the research, "There are few natural sound sources beside the wind."

The microphones picked up a lot of "screech" and "clank" noises as the rover's metal wheels hit rocks, according to the study.

Researchers could also use the recording to flag issues with the rover, such as when drivers detect something amiss with their automobile after it begins making odd sounds.

"I felt the scientific gamble of bringing microphones to Mars was a success," Maurice stated. "The recording of the Martian wind was a bonus."

The researchers' study has now been published in the journal Nature Communications, which stated that "listening to turbulence, such as vertical winds known as convection plumes, will allow us to improve our numerical climate and weather models."

Microphones may now be used to communicate with any future missions to Venus or Saturn's moon Titan.

Curiosity, meanwhile, will continue to collect data and send it back to Earth. As its fundamental purpose lasts barely more than two years, the lander is expected to operate for many months or years beyond that—the Curiosity rover is still operational nine years after its mission was supposed on a two-year period.

Cosmic Cantina - Life on Mars: Alien Evidence and Human Colonization


About the Blogger:

April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on

To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav



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