Balloons and sensors floating through the stratosphere detect infrasound released into the atmosphere when an earthquake hits. Ballons, 11 meters in diameter and weighing 30 kilograms, can support up to four instruments.
Stratosphere is new to the seismology game; the balloons are mostly helpful with atmospheric activities, which can pick up small, local quakes. However, a fleet of balloons had recently set the bar high by detecting a 7.3 magnitude earthquake in Indonesia.
“We are very, very happy because it was not only a single balloon that detected the earthquake, it was sensed on multiple balloons,” says Raphael Garcia, lead author of the new study and a planetary scientist at the Institut Supérieur de l’Aéronatique et de l’Espace of the University of Toulouse.
On December 14, 2021, the large earthquake mentioned above has been detected by four of IASE’s Strateole-2 balloons within 10 minutes. They detected the emitted infrasound within a 3,000-kilometer (1860-mile) radius at a 20-kilometer (12 miles) altitude.
The data helped the research team accurately calculate the magnitude and various parameters about both the quake and planetary structure.
Next stop: Venus
The study is considered a great leap toward possibly finding what’s inside Venus, though the balloons have only been tested on Earth.