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Particle, Particle in Space, Tell me About Earthquakes
August 29, 2008 17:20

Earthquake on a detector

The crew of the International space station finishes preparations for “Vsplesk” (“Burst”) experiment, results of which are expected to help in developing methods for real-time forecasting of earthquakes.

Russian members of the ISS crew have already installed hardware, necessary for the experiment, on the external surface of the “Zvezda” (“Star”) service module this July. Recently cosmonauts finished installation of scientific devices inside the station.

During the “Vsplesk” experiment researchers will find out how effective detection of charged particle bursts in near-Earth space environment is. Said bursts are believed to be related to various geophysical processes, taking place on our planet, including seismic events. One of the most important tasks of the experiments is distinguishing earthquake precursors from particles, having other physical nature. Russian scientists built research hardware and installed it on the ISS (“Vsplesk”) and on the “Resurs DK” space vehicle (“Arina”), launched in July 2006. Thus, particle detection is performed from different sites of near-Earth space, which makes received data more reliable and gives accurate view of the processes of interest.



Relationship between earthquakes and Earth’s ionosphere is studied in various countries, and in Russia scientists developed special geospace system for monitoring and predicting of natural and technogenic disasters and called it “Volcano”. The goal of mentioned system is collecting, processing and analysis of data about earthquake signs, as well as about possible development and consequence of an earthquake. Scientists planned the system to contain two groups of small space crafts, located on circular orbits as high as 400-500 km (low-orbit) and 900-1000 km (high-orbit), and a network of terrestrial geophysical observatories, satellite data receiving and processing stations and situation centre.

The system was formed in several stages. In 2001 meteorological satellite “Meteor 3M” acquired a small companion – experimental space craft “COMPASS” (Complex Orbital Magneto–Plasma Autonomous Small Satellite) with scientific filling, created in Russia, Hungary, Greece, the Ukraine and Poland. Unfortunately, problems with equipment didn’t allow “COMPASS” to finish its research mission. However, the satellite managed to collect some data, which were promising from earthquake-predicting point of view.



In 2002-2003 researchers repeated the experiment, and satellite forecasts were a hit in 44 earthquakes out of 47, registered by world terrestrial seismic services. Moreover, local maximums of seismic activity agreed with maximum of geomagnetic storms during same period of time. All this proved that earthquakes are “born” on the Sun, when some specific solar-terrestrial relationships initiate natural disasters on our planet. Earthquake precursors can be detected by means of satellites long before the Earth shakes.

Well, real science requires more data for statistics, and in 2006 “COMPASS 2” was launched to the orbit. Despite permanent hardware failures (I bet someone cursed it), second space craft collected a great deal of valuable data. New means and technologies for earthquake prediction are also tested at the ISS, which appeared to be a very convenient research tool due to its relatively low orbiting.

According to initial plans for “Volcano” space system development, researchers expected to finish everything in 2005-2006. Insufficient and sporadic funding was the reason they didn’t finish the “Volcano” as scheduled – honestly speaking, finding enough money for research has always been a problem for Russian scientists.

Notable fact – ionospheric variations and subsequent seismic events are considered to be a tip of the iceberg of fundamental relations between lithosphere, lower atmosphere and ionosphere. Electric fields of same intensity can precede volcanic eruptions, powerful atmospheric fronts and other massive natural disasters. The “Volcano” system can save lives and money, being an effective tool for disaster prevention.

Source: Science & Life

Kizilova Anna

Tags: Russian Scientists     

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