Perseverance captures audio and video from inside Martian dust devil
Dust devils are a common occurrence on Mars, but Perseverance has now captured one from up close for the first time. The NASA rover recorded video from right inside the dust devil, as well as the first audio of the phenomenon on the Red Planet.
Dust devils are like mini tornadoes, created when a column of warmer air rises and whips up dust for a short while. They’re spotted fairly regularly on Mars by rovers and orbiters, usually as ghostly transients in the distance.
But on September 27, 2021, Perseverance managed to get up close and personal with one. A large dust devil approached and then passed right over the top of the rover, allowing it to capture an unprecedented close-up of the event with several instruments at once.
Perseverance’s left navigation camera captured the dust devil approaching the rover, followed by the view from inside the eye of the storm. The rover’s weather sensor suite captured the wind speed, atmospheric pressure, temperature and dust levels. And finally, the SuperCam’s microphone recorded the eerie rumbling of the wind as the dust devil swept past.
Using all of this data in combination, NASA scientists were able to estimate that this particular dust devil measured at least 118 m (387 ft) tall and 25 m (82 ft) wide, and was traveling at about 19 km/h (12 mph).
The video below shows the event from the perspectives of the different instruments. The top feed is the raw video from the navigation camera. The second image has been processed to highlight the changing density of dust – blue spots represent the lowest density, which increases to purple and finally to yellow for the highest density.
The third row down is a chart representing the clear drop in atmospheric pressure, as recorded by the weather sensor suite. And the bottom row visualizes the audio captured by the microphone.
Studying dust devils from different angles can help scientists gain a better understanding of the weather conditions on Mars, which could provide useful information for future missions, including potential human visitors.