Conversation on Mars would be challenging. This is partially due to Mars’ extreme cold, which may cause your teeth to rattle. However, this is partly due to the planet’s thin atmosphere, which is mostly composed of carbon dioxide. In fact, a person speaking next to you on Mars would sound as if they were 200 feet distant or 60 meters away.
Baptiste Chide explains, “It’s a significant departure from Earth.” You do not want to accomplish it. Even at close range, it is preferable to utilize microphones and a headset, according to him. Chide is a planetologist of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. These new results regarding sound on Mars were published in the May 26 edition of Nature by him and his team.
The team of Chide studied some of the earliest sound recordings ever recorded on Mars. The sounds were captured by a microphone aboard the Perseverance rover operated by NASA. Mars has been explored by this space robot since February 2021.
Perseverance did not capture the sounds of Martian occurrences. These sounds were produced when the rover shot a laser at adjacent tiny rocks. This zap generated a sound wave that was comparable to thunder, albeit on a far smaller scale. Chide and his colleagues analyzed over five hours of noises recorded in this manner.
These data enabled scientists to estimate the speed of sound on Mars, revealing an unexpected result. On this planet, there are several. Within the audible range, high-pitched noises travel at around 250 meters per second (559 miles per hour). Low-frequency noises move around 240 meters per second more slowly (537 miles per hour). These low-frequency vibrations will only reach a few meters before they become inaudible. The higher-pitched noises vanish in even shorter intervals.
“This may come as a surprise to a planetizen. But that makes logic,” adds Andy Piacsek. He is a physicist at Ellensburg’s Central Washington University. He was not engaged in the current study, although he does investigate the movement of sound waves through various materials.
When a sound wave travels through air or a fluid, it transfers energy to the surrounding molecules. Air will progressively distribute this energy. This effect is known as the relaxation effect.
Relaxation of sound waves flowing through air is dependent on the frequency of the sound and the kind of air molecules. On Mars, the relaxation after a high-pitched sound occurs more quickly than following a low-pitched one. This is due to the atmosphere’s low pressure and carbon dioxide composition.
“This does not occur on Earth because our atmosphere’s pressure is so much greater than that of Mars,” Piacsek explains. In addition, nitrogen comprises the majority of the atmosphere of Earth. Under these circumstances, the impact of high and low pitches on relaxation is comparable. Therefore, the average speed of sound on Earth is around 343 meters per second (767 miles per hour).
If a music were playing from a speaker on Mars, the higher frequencies would reach the listener first. “Let’s assume you had a metropolis with birds on Mars,” adds Chide. “Birds occur much too often. They could not be heard. You would hear nothing except the noises of the city.” Chide asserts that the high carbon dioxide component of the Martian atmosphere is to blame.
Obviously, there are no birds on Mars, but that is not why scientists research sounds on other planets. According to Chide, measuring the speed of sound may provide scientists with an accurate method for studying the Martian atmosphere. Air pressure, temperature, and humidity all impact sound speed. Therefore, by detecting variations in the speed of sound over time, adds Chide, scientists may learn more about the weather on Mars. “We can detect temperature in minute increments,” he continues, “even from day to day.”
With Perseverance transmitting more sounds to Earth, scientists will be able to examine how the Martian soundscape varies during the seasons, according to Chide. “We’re anxious to study how sound behaves throughout winter and fall on Mars, as well as during every season.”