What causes the noise planets make

How does it sound on an alien planet? This question worries not only the makers of science fiction films, but also NASA scientists. The latter can now give an answer, at least for Mars: the Mars probe InSight first recorded the wind on the Red Planet. As reported by the US space agency Nasa, the wind blowing over the solar modules of the probe was recorded by an air pressure sensor and a seismograph on board.

Nasa has published the audio recordings and a video on its website:

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A muffled rumble can be clearly heard on this material. According to NASA, the recorded wind gusts had a speed of five to seven meters per second. On earth, this wind speed would correspond to a weak to moderate breeze. The wind therefore blew first from the northwest and then from the southeast.

InSight touched down on Mars on November 26th. The landing was preceded by an almost seven-month journey by the probe through space. Insight is a 360 kilogram robot that doesn't roll but stays in one place. The mission, which cost around 650 million euros in total, is scheduled to run for two years.

The experimental equipment on board the landing platform includes a ramming probe built in Germany that is supposed to hammer a hole up to five meters deep on the surface of Mars. With InSight the scientists want to study the interior of Mars and its structure for the first time. Possible vibrations and tremors of the planet are to be measured. The scientists hope to find out, among other things, how Mars was formed billions of years ago. Recording the Mars wind was an "unplanned pleasure," according to mission leader Bruce Banerdt.

"It really sounds alien" - sound on Mars has long been the subject of speculation

Imperial College London scientist Thomas Pike said the rumble reminded him of a flag blowing in the wind. "It sounds really alien, and that's exactly what it is."

In any case, the recordings from Mars are difficult to compare with sounds on Earth. Phenomena such as thunderstorms, sandstorms or quakes, which are very loud on Earth and also occur on Mars, would hardly be heard there. Because the composition of a planet's atmosphere is decisive for the propagation of sound. It is the carrier through which sound travels. Due to its composition, the air from Mars acts like a silencer.

This means that a scream that could be heard a kilometer away on Earth would no longer be heard on Mars after just a few meters. The propagation of sound on Mars has so far been investigated using simulations. How acoustic communication might look on the neighboring planet is definitely relevant for future missions.

By the way, in space, outside of the atmosphere of a planet, there are no noises at all. There is complete silence there.