NASA scientists testing the latest Mars mission equipment have discovered the quietest place in the UK – in Bristol.
Boffins from the InSight team found the tiny lab at the city’s university produced the smallest number of vibrations when encountered by sound.
The conditions mean it is perfect to test and calibrate a seismometer which will be travelling to the Red Planet in 2016 to measure marsquakes and meteorite impacts.
Scientists travelled up and down the UK to find somewhere capable of producing conditions similar to that encountered on Mars.
They eventually found the Ultra-Low Noise Lab at the University of Bristol’s Centre for Nanoscience and Quantum Information (NSQI) which had the lowest critical seismic frequency range – making it almost silent.
The ideal conditions, which almost mirror those likely to be found on Mars, will now be used to test the UK’s contribution towards the state-of-the-art mission.
The Short Period Seismometer makes up half of the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) on the InSight – or Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport – mission.
The operation hopes to discover information about the processes that shaped the rocky planets of the inner solar system, which includes Earth, more than four billion years ago.
Dr Nick Teanby, Dr James Wookey, Jenny Taylor and Dr Anna Horleston from Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences have been working with the NSQI’s Dr Pete Dunton to see how the Ultra-Low Noise Lab can be used to help calibrate and test the Mars-bound instrument.
The tests will be some of the most vibration sensitive yet to take advantage of the NSQI’s exceptional facility and will be performed by the Bristol team together with collaborators from Imperial College London, the University of Oxford and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.