• The sounds are similar to dust devils on Earth but are quieter with less powerful winds
  • It was the first time the rover's microphone was switched on when the whirlwind passed over it
  • The dust devil measured at least 400 feet tall and 80 feet across

NASA's Perseverance rover has for the first time captured the sounds of a Martian dust devil. They are eerie like radio static.

The sound clip, released Tuesday, was captured by Perseverance rover's SuperCam microphone on Sept. 27 last year. The audio was supported by a video captured by Perseverance's NavCam.

The sounds are similar to dust devils on Earth but quieter, with less powerful winds due to Mars' thin atmosphere.

"The other day, I played the Mars dust devil recording to a friend and watched him grin. 'Wow, that sounds just like wind on Earth!' was his enthusiastic response," Roger Wiens, the principal investigator of SuperCam at Purdue University, said in a statement.

"Within our team at (Institut Supérieur de l'Aéronautique et de l'Espace) ISAE–SUPAERO we were convinced that a microphone on Mars would be an important instrument, and we haven't been disappointed," lead author Naomi Murdoch, a planetary scientist at the University of Toulouse in France, told

Dust devils are not new for the Perseverance rover as it has already detected 90 dust devils passing overhead. However, this was the first time the rover's microphone was switched on when the whirlwind passed over it.

"It was fully caught red-handed by Persy," said co-author German Martinez, of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, the AP reported.

This particular dust devil was of average size, measuring at least 400 feet tall and 80 feet across, traveling at 16 feet per second, according to the scientists.

Since the rover's SuperCam microphone is turned on for less than three minutes after a gap of a few days, there is just a 1-in-200 chance of recording the dust-devil audio. It was "definitely luck" that the dust devil sound clip was captured, Murdoch said.

"With this dust-devil recording, we can actually hear and count particles impacting the rover," the scientist added. The recording had a total of 308 impacts on the rover from dust grains of the dust devil.

What puzzled the scientists was that the majority of the impacts came from the center of the dust devil, meaning there was a concentration of dust in its center. Usually, one would expect dust to be concentrated on the walls of the dust devil.

"This particular dust devil is unusual even for Mars," Murdoch said. "We aren't entirely sure why the dust has accumulated in the center, but it may be because the dust devil is still in its initial phase of formation."

Perseverance had previously captured the sounds of the Martian wind, as well as recorded its own sound as it moved around the Red Planet with the ingenuity helicopter flying nearby.

Dust Devil on Mars
A towering dust devil casts a serpentine shadow over the Martian surface in this image acquired by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona