Although they've been around for decades now, Earth-observing satellites remain a constant source of scientific discovery, giving us a better picture of our planet and how it works. Now a group of European scientists have come up with a method designed to detect seismic fluctuations on Earth from orbit.
A group of physicists (led by Raphael Garcia at the University of Toulouse in France) have been attempting to devise a way to detect infrasound waves that help measure major seismic events on Earth, such as the Great Tohoku Earthquake of 2011. After exploring a number of options, the group discovered that the Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) satellite, launched by the European Space Agency back in 2009, could actually yield the best measurements of infrasound waves, essentially making it the first space-based seismometer.
Originally created to measure gravity fields on the surface of the Earth, Garcia and his team believe that the GOCE satellite serves as a kind of proof of concept for future satellites that might be dedicated to monitoring earthquakes and even covert nuclear testing events as they happen.