When you think of some of the eeriest sounds on Earth, you’ll probably think of warning sirens, piercing screams, or even John Carpenter’s Halloween theme — but it turns out that Mars has its share of creepy noises that sound like they could be pulled right from a horror movie soundtrack. NASA has shared audio captured by the Perseverance rover just before the spookiest time of year.
Perseverance has been hanging out on Mars since Feb. 18 of this year, and since the rover is equipped with two microphones, it has been perfectly poised to capture hours of audio to send back to Earth. Images and data samples are great, but there’s something about actually hearing the sounds captured on an alien planet that really adds depth to the experience.
You can listen to the audio on NASA’s website. I highly recommend listening to them with some nicer headphones that will allow you to feel the rich bass.
NASA has broken the sounds up into smaller bites, with descriptions of what’s happening. There are clips of the Ingenuity helicopter hovering above Mars, Perseverance driving and capturing laser scans of rocks, and even just wind.
What makes this even cooler is the fact that the microphones used on this trip aren’t anything super special; NASA notes that they can be purchased by anyone. One was fitted to the chassis of the rover while the other was affixed to its mast.
There’s also more to this than just satisfying our curiosity, as NASA points out:
Some of those recordings are teaching scientists about changes in the planet’s atmosphere. After all, sound travels through vibrations in the air. From its perch on Perseverance’s mast, the SuperCam mic is ideally located for monitoring “microturbulence” – minute shifts in the air – and complements the rover’s dedicated wind sensors, which are part of a suite of atmospheric tools called MEDA, short for the Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer.
MEDA’s sensors sample the wind’s speed, pressure, and temperature one to two times per second for up to two hours at a time. SuperCam’s microphone, on the other hand, can provide similar information at a rate of 20,000 times per second over several minutes.
The microphone also allows for research on how sound propagates on Mars. Because the planet’s atmosphere is much less dense than Earth’s, scientists knew higher-pitched sounds in particular would be hard to hear. In fact, a few scientists – unsure if they’d hear anything at all – were surprised when the microphone picked up the Ingenuity helicopter’s buzzing rotors during its fourth flight, on April 30, from a distance of 262 feet (80 meters).
So far, audio data has enabled scientists to rule out some of its predictions on how sound functions on Mars.
For those of us at home, though, there’s a simple pleasure in listening to the wild sounds from beyond our atmosphere. I’ve had them on as background music all day, and while they’re a little unsettling — many of the sounds remind me of creepy sci-fi films or those weird recordings people like to post on conspiracy theory YouTube — it’s mostly just fascinating to hear what it sounds like on a different planet.