Have you ever had a friend from a balloon when you were a kid? If you had, then you would remember the excitement of buying a balloon and hanging out with them until they deflate. Well, latest results show that the balloons that are one of our oldest friends, can be used to detect earthquakes from the stratosphere. This is both weird and interesting so let’s take a look at this remarkable adventure.
A new study in AUG’s Geophysical Research Letters reported that they are able to detect the magnitude of a 7.3 earthquake in a network of balloons floating through the stratosphere above the Pacific Ocean.
For a long time, detecting earthquakes from Venus was not even a dream that could be accomplished because of the planet’s hot surface, which is hot enough to melt copper, and the corrosive atmosphere. But with this new improvement, it can be accomplished.
During an earthquake, the vibrating ground sends an infrasound to the high of the surface, where the balloons are present, and they can detect the earthquake. This technique proved that balloons can be used as seismometers, instruments that are used to record the motion of the ground during an earthquake.
In the fall of 2021, the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) launched 16 balloons from Mahé Island in the Seychelles archipelago. But these balloons were different from the regular weather balloons. These balloons were “superpressure balloons”, which means that they are able to stand as aloft for months. With the help of stratospheric winds, they came over the Flores Sea, and on the 14th of December 2021, a magnitude of 7.3 earthquake hit Indonesia's Flores Sea.
In 10 minutes, four of IASE's Strateole-2 balloons detected the infrasound. From those this sensor data, the research team was able to accurately calculate the earthquake’s magnitude; they were even able to sense structures in the Earth 100 km deep.
This study is very important due to the fact that it can be applied on Venus. Even though this system was only tested in Earth’s atmosphere, the research team believes that there is a high chance that this will work in Venus' carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere too.
In 2021, most of the scientists started to refer the next decade as the “the decade of Venus” because of the fact that there are three planned missions to the planet until the early 2030s. Right now, several teams are working on this “balloon-based seismic monitoring,” and even though this is the first time of detecting an earthquake by using more than one ballon, it will not be the last.
We might have met with balloons as an entertainment, but it is clear that they are more than just a silly toy. They are, right now, in a very important position to detect a one-time-mystery-planet-Venus’ earthquakes. Therefore, using a silly little toy from our childhood to discover new things is both inspiring and dreamy. This is another proof that in life, we can use imagination to accomplish everything.
"Balloon Fleet Senses Earthquakes from Stratosphere." Phys.Org, phys.org/news/2022-07-balloon-fleet-earthquakes-stratosphere.html.
"Balloons Detect an Earthquake from the Stratosphere." Space Weather Archive, spaceweatherarchive.com/2022/08/09/balloons-have-detected-an-earthquake-from-the-stratosphere/.
"How Balloons Could One Day Detect Quakes on Venus."