Goce flies lower than any other scientific satellite

The great Tohoku earthquake in Japan two years ago was so big its effects were even felt at the edge of space.

Scientists say the Magnitude 9.0 tremor on 11 March 2011 sent a ripple of sound through the atmosphere that was picked up by the Goce satellite.

Its super-sensitive instrumentation was able to detect the disturbance as it passed through the thin wisps of air still present 255km above the Earth.

The observation is reported in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

It has long been recognised that major quakes will generate very low-frequency acoustic waves, or infrasound – a type of deep rumble at frequencies below those discernible to the human ear. But no spacecraft in orbit has had the capability to record them, until now.

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Puts a whole new meaning to the age old question: “If a tree falls in the forest and no man is there to hear it, does it make a noise?”

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