SEVERE WX : Wind Advisory View Alerts

Perseverance rover sends back sounds of zapping rocks on Mars

The Perseverance rover is sending back the sounds of Mars -- and it's contributing to the soundtrack.New audio returned from the rover's SuperCam incl...

Posted: Mar 11, 2021 2:41 PM

The Perseverance rover is sending back the sounds of Mars -- and it's contributing to the soundtrack.

New audio returned from the rover's SuperCam includes the popping sound of the instrument as it zaps rocks with its laser. It's the first time we've heard what it sounds like when a laser interacts with a rock on another planet.

Some of the rover's instruments are still being tested for readiness, but SuperCam has already returned its first results, including those sounds of it zapping rocks to learn more about their composition.

What, exactly, do these recordings tell scientists? There is a shift in some of the pops because some sound louder than others. Researchers can use these variations to understand more about the physical structure of rocks, including how hard they are.

Capturing audio is just one of the SuperCam's capabilities. It's a 12-pound sensor head on the rover's mast, or neck, that can analyze the intriguing geology on Mars in five different ways. The instrument includes a camera, laser and spectrometers that can identify the chemical and mineral composition of rocks and soil.

Scientists can use SuperCam to help them select which rocks they collect samples from in the search for ancient microbial life on Mars. Future missions will return those samples to Earth in the 2030s.

"It is amazing to see SuperCam working so well on Mars," said Roger Wiens, principal investigator for SuperCam at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, in a statement. "When we first dreamed up this instrument eight years ago, we worried that we were being way too ambitious. Now it is up there working like a charm."

The instrument was developed by a joint team from both the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales in France.

SuperCam includes a visible and infrared sensor, called VISIR, and a Raman spectrometer. While VISIR uses sunlight to analyze minerals in rocks and sediment, the Raman spectrometer uses a green laser that can probe the chemical makeup of a rock. The capabilities of SuperCam allow scientists to gain an understanding of rocks on Mars down to an atomic and molecular level.

The instrument's targets can be as small as the point of a pencil located at a distance more than 20 feet away from the rover.

"This is the first time an instrument has used Raman spectroscopy anywhere other than on Earth!" said Olivier Beyssac, CNRS research director at the Institut de Minéralogie, de Physique des Matériaux et de Cosmochimie in Paris, in a statement.

"Raman spectroscopy is going to play a crucial role in characterizing minerals to gain deeper insight into the geological conditions under which they formed and to detect potential organic and mineral molecules that might have been formed by living organisms."

The microphone on the rover is capturing sounds of remarkable quality, said Naomi Murdoch, a research scientist and lecturer at the Institut Supérieur de l'Aéronautique et de l'Espace Aerospace engineering school in Toulouse.

"It's incredible to think that we're going to do science with the first sounds ever recorded on the surface of Mars!" she said.

Three audio files were shared along with the first results from the SuperCam data.

The first recording, captured by SuperCam on February 19, was only recorded about 18 hours after the rover landed on Mars. The rover's mast, which includes SuperCam and the microphone, had not unfolded yet, so the sounds are muted. But Martian wind, albeit muffled, can be heard.

The second audio recording was captured three days later, after the mast was deployed, and includes a better idea of what the Martian wind sounds like.

And the third recording, taken March 2, includes 30 pops, or impacts, as the SuperCam laser targeted a rock called "Máaz" -- the Navajo word for Mars -- that was 10 feet away from the rover.

"I want to extend my sincere thanks and congratulations to our international partners at CNES and the SuperCam team for being a part of this momentous journey with us," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, in a statement.

"SuperCam truly gives our rover eyes to see promising rock samples and ears to hear what it sounds like when the lasers strike them," he said. "This information will be essential when determining which samples to cache and ultimately return to Earth through our groundbreaking Mars Sample Return Campaign, which will be one of the most ambitious feats ever undertaken by humanity."

Huntsville
Clear
63° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 63°
Florence
Partly Cloudy
69° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 69°
Fayetteville
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 68°
Decatur
Partly Cloudy
66° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 66°
Scottsboro
Clear
65° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 65°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 530744

Reported Deaths: 10978
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson764931522
Mobile40959804
Madison34735503
Tuscaloosa25749452
Montgomery24327589
Shelby23425249
Baldwin21123308
Lee15873171
Calhoun14496314
Morgan14288279
Etowah13826353
Marshall12213223
Houston10561281
Elmore10052205
Limestone9958151
Cullman9659193
St. Clair9652243
Lauderdale9420241
DeKalb8828186
Talladega8220176
Walker7231277
Autauga6918108
Jackson6809112
Blount6656137
Colbert6296134
Coffee5509119
Dale4830111
Russell440738
Chilton4284112
Franklin425682
Covington4118118
Tallapoosa4026152
Escambia393376
Chambers3560123
Dallas3547151
Clarke351061
Marion3116101
Pike310877
Lawrence300298
Winston274272
Bibb260564
Marengo249664
Geneva249477
Pickens234361
Barbour230757
Hale222877
Butler215969
Fayette212262
Henry188744
Cherokee184645
Randolph180141
Monroe177340
Washington167239
Macon158950
Clay156156
Crenshaw152257
Cleburne148941
Lamar142535
Lowndes138753
Wilcox127030
Bullock123041
Conecuh110329
Perry107526
Coosa107228
Sumter104432
Greene92334
Choctaw60624
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 852841

Reported Deaths: 12255
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby956561619
Davidson89355933
Knox50675635
Hamilton44280494
Rutherford43046434
Williamson28015217
Sumner24012349
Montgomery20255225
Wilson18804234
Out of TN1840797
Unassigned16998134
Sullivan16794294
Blount15490193
Bradley15032150
Washington14597245
Maury13499172
Sevier13391175
Putnam11396175
Madison11168242
Robertson9756131
Anderson8760172
Hamblen8610173
Greene7877155
Tipton7359103
Coffee6905121
Dickson6840110
Cumberland6734132
Carter6634158
Gibson6526146
McMinn650898
Bedford6506128
Roane6282105
Jefferson6211124
Loudon613069
Hawkins6077107
Lawrence593887
Monroe584095
Warren554881
Dyer5425106
Franklin515090
Fayette506877
Cheatham455355
Obion454196
Cocke450099
Lincoln435763
Rhea434875
Marshall419058
Campbell415463
Weakley412865
Giles3996100
Henderson378976
White364170
Macon361978
Carroll361683
Hardin357167
Hardeman352664
Lauderdale318944
Henry318576
Claiborne318273
Marion312347
Scott312345
Overton301161
Wayne296334
Hickman284046
McNairy282054
DeKalb279654
Smith277839
Haywood271162
Grainger262850
Morgan250139
Trousdale250122
Fentress241547
Johnson240739
Chester214351
Bledsoe214211
Polk207824
Unicoi203549
Crockett203248
Cannon192031
Union190734
Humphreys179927
Grundy179334
Lake170326
Sequatchie169829
Benton166540
Decatur158639
Lewis158126
Meigs139125
Stewart132528
Jackson132036
Clay110131
Houston109333
Perry106628
Moore101117
Van Buren84723
Pickett76024
Hancock58912

Community Events