Dust devils are dust-filled whirlwinds that are common on Mars.
They are indicators of atmospheric turbulence.
They are an important lifting mechanism for the Martian surface dustosphere.
Dust particle impacts are associated with hardware degradation of rovers on Mars, and thus improved understanding of dust lifting processes could also influence future space exploration.
However, the sound of a dust cyclone has never been recorded before.
Recently, in a study published in Nature Communications, researchers from the Institut National Supérieur de l’Aeronautique et de l’Astronautique (INSAE) recorded the sound of a dust plume that passed directly over the rover using the SuperCam microphone on board the Trail rover.
Combining sound recordings and multi-sensor data, and using modeling analysis, the researchers characterized the Martian dust plume – which was about 25 meters wide (nearly 10 times as wide as the rover) and at least 118 meters high.
These findings may improve our understanding of surface variability, dust storms, and climate diversity on Mars, and may also impact space exploration.
In the future, as the Trailblazer mission continues, more microphone records may provide richer information that will allow comparative studies of different vortices at different geographic locations.