Scientists seize the sound of dawn on Mars

Christopher Davidson
November 14, 2018

Image sonification helps scientists understand more about terrain, weather, and health issues. Now you can find out, as researchers have "sonified" (or turned into sound) an image of the Opportunity rover's 5,000th sunrise on Mars. Now, scientists have created a attractive, haunting track that literally out of this world-it's a sonic representation of a Martian sunrise, as photographed by the Opportunity rover before it went dormant.

Dr Domenico Vicinanza and Dr Genevieve Williams scanned a picture of a sunrise on Mars taken by Opportunity from left to right, pixel by pixel. They used algorithms to assign each element a specific pitch and melody. They looked at the brightness and colour details of each pixel and combined the information with terrain elevation. "Sound image is a pretty flexible method for research, it can be used in various fields, from the study of certain characteristics of the surface and atmosphere of the planet and ending with the analysis of changes in the weather or the detection of volcanic eruptions".

"In health science, it can provide scientists with new methods to analyse the occurrence of certain shapes and colours, which is particularly useful in image diagnostics", he said.

What does a martian sunrise sound like?

"We are absolutely thrilled about presenting this work about such a fascinating planet", said Dr. Domenico Vicinanza, a scientist associated with the project, in a statement to Anglia Ruskin University.

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As you might assume, the quieter notes and flowing background sounds come from the dark area surrounding the Sun in the image.

Dr Vicinanza and Dr Williams will present this soundtrack, dubbed Mars Soundscapes, on 13th November at the Supercomputing SC18 Conference in Dallas. Those lucky enough to be at the conference will also be able to experience it via vibrational transducers, feeling the vibrations with their hands as well as listening to the sounds.

Hopefully, "Mars Soundscapes" isn't Opportunity's swansong.

Opportunity rover worked actively until 2018 when a massive dust storm swept over Mars and forced the rover to suspend science observations. Researchers hope that it may resume its function later this year.

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