A telescope to peer deep into the heart of our planet
Designed to track North America’s geological evolution, EarthScope is the largest science project on the planet. This earth-sciences observatory records data over 3.8 million square miles. Since 2003, its more than 4,000 instruments have amassed 67 terabytes of data—that’s equivalent to more than a quarter of the data in the Library of Congress—and add another terabyte every six to eight weeks
Researchers are using EarthScope, which consists of many kinds of experiments, to examine all facets of North America’s geological composition. Across the continental U.S. and Puerto Rico, 1,100 permanent GPS units track deformations in the land’s surface caused by tectonic shifts below. Seismic sensors next to the active San Andreas Fault in California record its tiniest slips, while rock samples pulled from a drill site that extends two miles into the fault reveal the grinding and strain on the rocks that occur when the two sides of the fault slide past each other during an earthquake. And over the course of 10 years, small crews have hauled a moveable array of 400 seismographs across the country using backhoes and sweat. By the time the stations reach the East Coast next year, they will have collected data from almost 2,000 locations.
What's In It For You
Collectively, EarthScope’s measurements could help explain the forces behind geological events such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, leading to better detection. So far, data from the project has shown that rocks in the San Andreas Fault are weaker than those outside it and that the plume of magma under Yellowstone’s supervolcano is even bigger than previously suspected.