The Japan earthquake, which struck the country with a magnitude of 9.0 on March 11, 2011, was felt at the edge of space, BBC reported.
The massive Tōhoku earthquake triggered a tsunami that claimed about 20,000 lives and destroyed countless homes and structures. The natural disaster also caused damage to two nuclear plants at Fukushima, leading to the failure of its coolants and triggering a radiation leak.
A European Space Agency (ESA) satellite orbiting the Earth has detected the effects of the devastating earthquake, as it created seismic waves that travelled through the atmosphere. This has come at a time when Japan is marking its second anniversary of Tōhoku quake and tsunami on Monday.
ESA's Gravity Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) has super-sensitive instrumentation that was able to record a wave of sound when it passed through air present 255 km above Earth. According to scientists, when earthquakes occur, they create seismic waves as well as large tremors which cause the Earth's surface to vibrate. These vibrations produce low-frequency sound waves that travel through air, reported Agence France-Presse news agency.
Until now, no spacecraft has had the ability to detect these mild sound waves. With the help of its supersensitive instrumentation, GOCE was able to record the sound in the atmosphere.
"GOCE's accelerometers are about a hundred times more sensitive than any previous instrumentation and we detected the acoustic wave not once, but twice - passing through it over the Pacific and over Europe," Dr Rune Floberghagen, from the European Space Agency, told the BBC.
The acoustic waves created vertical velocities up to 130 metres per second, causing disturbances up to 11 percent of air density and changing their speed. The Goce satellite detected the signal over the Pacific Ocean 30 minutes after the tremor struck Japan and then again 25 minutes later as it moved across Europe, the AFP report said.
Scientists are happy with the findings and hope the new tool would help in understanding such natural phenomenon like earthquakes and asteroid strikes.
Currently, scientists are on the mission to find out if the satellite has recorded an infrasonic signal when a meteorite entered the Earth's atmosphere over Chelyabinsk Region in Russia last month. Tiny fragments of the meteor streaked over Central Russia injuring about 1,000 people and causing damage to property.
The details have been reported in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
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