29 May 2008

"Listen" to Phoenix Land

Posted by Ryan Anderson

Check it out, the Mars Express spacecraft tracked the radio signal from Phoenix as it landed, and that signal has now been converted to audio for you listening pleasure.

Although there is a certain “gee whiz” factor in things like this, I find it to be pretty confusing and misleading. The sound that you are hearing is not the sound of Phoenix landing, it is the radio beacon being doppler shifted by the relative motion of the two spacecraft. As far as I know, scientists don’t actually use the data by listening to it, they display it graphically, or just crunch the numbers with a computer. True, that doesn’t make much of a press release, but I think placing audio files online and saying that that’s what the Phoenix landing “sounds like” is going to confuse more than educate.