A European Space Agency satellite circling Earth was able to detect the massive 2011 earthquake that ravaged Japan, killing nearly 16,000 people and causing massive destruction, a new study said.
"The atmospheric infrasounds following the great Tohoku earthquake ... induced variations of air density and vertical acceleration of the GOCE platform," said a report published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
The Gravity Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) is the European Space Agency super-sensitive satellite that acts like an orbital seismologist.
Scientists argue that earthquakes not only create seismic waves that travel through Earth's interior, but large tremors also cause the surface of the planet to vibrate like a drum. This produces sound waves that travel upwards through the atmosphere.
GOCE is designed to capture and register these signals.
According to the report, the magnitude 9.0 tremor on March 11, 2011 sent shock waves through the atmosphere that was picked up by the satellite.