Japan's massive earthquake shook satellites out of their orbits

The Tohoku earthquake that devastated parts of Japan last March caused havoc on an unimaginable scale, and now it has been revealed that the shock waves sent through the Earth were actually powerful enough to knock satellites out of their orbits.

The two affected satellites are used to measure minute changes in the Earth's magnetic field as part of a research project called GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment). The satellites follow similar orbits about 136 miles apart, while taking ultra accurate readings of the distance between them, and any changes in the surrounding magnetic field. Following the March earthquake, these variations grew to double their normal level as the satellites passed over the earthquake zone.

NASA and the German Space Agency DLR who jointly operate the GRACE program, now feel that this discovery will lead to a more accurate way to measure the magnitude of large earthquakes.

Let's just hope this doesn't mean we're going to start seeing more satellites crashing back to Earth.

Via New Scientist

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