Infrasound station IS55 gets a checkup. Copyright CTBTO Preparatory Commission
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The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization recorded some of the first data indicating both the recent Russian meteor hit and the North Korean nuclear test. How’d it know so fast? The organization maintains 337 seismic, hydroacoustic, infrasound and radionuclide monitoring stations all over the world, to catch when someone sets off a nuclear explosion. Although built to monitor nuclear activity, the stations also gather data that can be used for tsunami warnings and for studies about volcanoes, climate change, whale migrations and other science, the organization says. What follows are photos of some of the stations’ coolest locales.

PHOTO GALLERY:

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TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA

Radionuclide stations sample the atmosphere for radioactive particles. They’re the only stations that confirm whether an explosion detected by other means was actually nuclear. Here, experts examine a radionuclide station in northern Australia.

NOUAKCHOTT, MAURITANIA

Radionuclide station RN43 caught in a sandstorm

KAMTSCHATKA, RUSSIA

The view from radionuclide station RN60

ASCENSION, U.K.

Infrasound stations, like this one in the British South Atlantic, look for sound waves that are emitted by large explosions, but are too low-frequency for the human ear to detect.

SO THAT’S WHAT THEY WERE DOING THIS WHOLE TIME

Just kidding. There is an infrasound station on Easter Island, but we are not aware of it being connected to the statues there in any way. This photo was taken near the station.

WINDLESS BIGHT, ANTARCTICA

Infrasound station IS55 gets a checkup.

TORODI, NIGER

Seismic stations, like this one, measure shockwaves in the Earth. Most of the time, they end up picking up earthquakes, but underground nuclear tests, such as those set off by North Korea, also create shockwaves.

BILIBINO, RUSSIA

A seismic station in far northeastern Russia

WAKE ISLAND, U.S.

A hydroacoustic cable extends into the sea off of U.S.-owned Wake Island, west of Hawaii. Hydroacoustic stations listen for sounds from explosions, which travel especially far underwater

CROZET ISLANDS, FRANCE

A hydroacoustic station geting installed, in 2000, offshore of the French-owned Crozet Islands in the southern Indian Ocean.

PALMER STATION, ANTARCTICA

On the way to check a radionuclide station in Antarctica

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