The EarthScope

24.03.2015 |

Episode #10 of the course “Most ambitious science projects”

Imagine a telescope that could cut deep into the core of our planet. Created to track North America’s geological evolution, EarthScope is one of the most impressive science projects on the globe. This observatory for earth sciences keeps tabs on data covering 3.8 million square miles (9.8 million square kilometers).

Annually, the EarthScope costs $25 million to maintain and has a staff of 110. The project cost $197 million to build.

From 2003, the more than 4,000 instruments connected to the project have amassed 67 terabytes of data. This number equivalent to over a fourth of the data in the Library of Congress, and adds another terabyte of data every six to eight weeks!


Uses for Science

Scientists use the EarthScope, consisting of all manner of experiments, to observe all aspects of North America’s geological elements. Throughout the contiguous 48 United States and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, over 1000 permanent GPS units record deformities in the land’s surface created by tectonic shifts below the surface of the Earth.

Seismic sensors near the active San Andreas Fault in California keep track of its smallest slips. The samples of rocks taken from a drill site that reaches for two miles (3.2 km) into the fault demonstrate the grinding and pressure on the rocks that happens when the two parts of the fault move past each other during an earthquake.

During the course of a decade, small crews have moved a transportable collection of 400 seismographs from one end of the country to the other using backhoes and perspiration. By 2017, the stations collected information representing almost 2,000 distinct areas.


Uses for Practical Life

Altogether, the measurements of EarthScope may assist in explaining the forces that control geological events like earthquakes and the eruption of volcanoes, resulting in more comprehensive detection. As of now, data from the project has demonstrated that big stones in the San Andreas Fault are not as strong as those on the outside. Additionally, the plume of magma below Yellowstone’s super volcano is even more massive than researchers previously suspected.


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