A windy sum­mer day — on Mars?

NASA’S In­sight lan­der pick­ing up good vi­bra­tions.

The Times-Tribune - - HEALTH & SCIENCE - BY MAR­CIA DUNN

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA’S new Mars lan­der has cap­tured the first sounds of the “re­ally un­worldly” Mar­tian wind.

The Jet Propul­sion Lab­o­ra­tory re­leased au­dio clips of the alien wind Fri­day. The low-fre­quency rum­blings were col­lected by the In­sight lan­der dur­ing its first week of op­er­a­tions at Mars.

The wind is es­ti­mated to be blow­ing 10 mph to 15 mph. These are the first sounds from Mars that are de­tectible by hu­man ears, ac­cord­ing to the re­searchers.

“Re­minds me of sit­ting out­side on a windy sum­mer af­ter­noon . ... In some sense, this is what it would sound like if you were sit­ting on the In­sight lan­der on Mars,” Cor­nell Univer­sity’s Don Ban­field told re­porters.

Sci­en­tists in­volved in the pro­ject agree the sound has an oth­er­worldly qual­ity to it.

Thomas Pike of Im­pe­rial Col­lege Lon­don said the rum­bling is “rather dif­fer­ent to any­thing that we’ve ex­pe­ri­enced on Earth, and I think it just gives us an­other way of think­ing about how far away we are get­ting these sig­nals.”

The noise is of the wind blow­ing against In­sight’s so­lar pan­els and the re­sult­ing vi­bra­tion of the en­tire space­craft. The sounds were recorded by an air pres­sure sen­sor in­side the lan­der that’s part of a weather sta­tion, as well as the seis­mome­ter on the deck of the space­craft.

The low fre­quen­cies are a re­sult of Mars’ thin air den­sity and even more so the seis­mome­ter it­self — it’s meant to de­tect un­der­ground seis­mic waves, well be­low the thresh­old of hu­man hear­ing. The seis­mome­ter will be moved to the Mar­tian sur­face in the com­ing weeks; un­til then, the team plans to record more wind noise.

The 1976 Vik­ing lan­ders on Mars picked up space­craft shak­ing caused by wind, but it would be a stretch to con­sider it sound, said In­sight’s lead sci­en­tist, Bruce Ban­erdt, of JPL in Pasadena, Cal­i­for­nia.

The “re­ally un­worldly” sounds from In­sight, mean­while, have Ban­erdt imag­in­ing he’s “on a planet that’s in some ways like the Earth, but in some ways re­ally alien.”

In­sight landed on Mars on Nov. 26.

“We’re all still on a high from the land­ing last week ... and here we are less than two weeks af­ter land­ing, and we’ve al­ready got some amaz­ing new sci­ence,” said NASA’S Lori Glaze, act­ing di­rec­tor of plan­e­tary sci­ence. “It’s cool, it’s fun.”

NASA / JPL-CALTECH VIA AP

A photo made avail­able Fri­day shows a view from the arm-mounted cam­era on the In­sight Mars lan­der.

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