Energy seismic technology deployed in Antarctica ahead of potential use on distant icy moons


Scientists have deployed a network of seismometers on the Glacier Glacier shelf of Antarctica in an experiment that will test the ability of instruments to work on the icy satellites of the solar system.

Twenty modern seismic “nodes” built by STRYDE (the world’s smallest and lightest ground seismometers) have been deployed on a shelf glacier around the British Antarctic Service’s (BAS) Galey VI research station along with one “short period”. ‘(SP) sensor, built by Imperial College London and Oxford University and funded in development with the UK Space Agency. This is the first time any of these tools have been used in Antarctica, an environment that is the closest analogue of the ice moon found anywhere on Earth.

In addition to laying the groundwork for future space science missions, this exciting and new experiment will also help understand the floating glacier on which the BAS Halley VI research station is located. The research team has already begun collecting useful data on seismic oscillations recorded on the shelf glacier, which may help further illuminate the development of cracks on the shelf and the ocean conditions beneath it. These data will contribute to an understanding of the changing nature of the Brunt Glacier shelf, which is crucial for planning future Antarctic operations.

Similar SP sensors are currently recording data about Mars as part of NASA’s InSight mission, and another set will be sent to the moon as part of NASA’s 2024 Farside Seismic Suite. It is hoped that such seismometers will one day be sent to the icy satellites of Saturn or Jupiter, where seismological records will be one of the elements of data collection used to study the interior locations of satellites and to determine whether there are conditions where primitive life could develop. This project will test the ability of seismic instruments to operate in an environment similar to that first found on these icy moons, and at the same time play a key role in finding life elsewhere in the solar system.

The nodes were deployed in mid-January, and commissioning of the SP sensor was completed in late January 2022. The first deployment in Antarctica is expected to last 2-3 weeks, before a possible longer deployment next year. The project is a partnership between BAS, the UK Space Agency, Oxford University and STRYDE.

“It’s an incredibly exciting opportunity to test seismometers in one of the most extreme conditions on Earth, and a valuable opportunity to explore how they can work on one of Saturn’s or Jupiter’s icy satellites,” said Ben Fernando, co-worker. -Project Manager at Oxford University.

Seismic instruments and data are extremely sensitive to a wide range of soil movements and thus can help monitor ice dynamics, which is crucial for climate change, in huge remote places like Antarctica, said Tarja Nissen-Mayer, co-chair of research. project at Oxford University.

“Halley is an excellent platform for testing stand-alone instruments that can be deployed in other difficult conditions elsewhere on Earth or in the solar system,” said Thomas Barningham, research coordinator at Halley VI Research Station. “At the local level, data can be a useful addition to the vast amount of data we collect from the various instruments that monitor shelf glaciers. Such data could pave the way for more intensive seismic campaigns on the shelf glacier in the future. ”

The UK is playing a leading role in space science and research, developing advanced technologies capable of working in harsh environments found in distant worlds, said Sue Horn, head of the UK Space Agency’s space research division.

“This project will help prepare for future missions to the moons of Saturn and Jupiter, while using instruments first developed for Mars to control the formation of cracks in Antarctic ice. This is a great example of how space technology benefits here on Earth, ”Horn said.

STRYDE is proud to play a role in the development of science through this experiment, which will help future efforts to find life elsewhere, said STRYDE CEO Mike Poppham.

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