Aurora University chosen to join select northern Illinois schools in national seismometer project

Rick Polad explains seismograph to Aurora University student

Rick Polad explains the details of the new seismograph in Stephens Hall to an Aurora University student.

Aurora University recently added a seismometer to campus, joining more than 100 U.S. universities and colleges as part of the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) project to further education and gather seismological data, including information collected from earthquakes or other tremors of the Earth.

Rick Polad, Pro-Rata Instructor of Physical Sciences, submitted the AU proposal at a time when the IRIS was looking to add seismometers, a detecting device equipped to measure the actual movement of the ground, in the Northern Illinois area.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for the university because this is a national project which adds to the AU scientific footprint as we join schools across the nation and collaborate with them to gather and assess data,” said Polad.

The Northern Illinois area has previously received little attention due to the relative lack of seismic activity; however recent activity has shown this area to be more complicated than originally thought. While the area is still relatively inactive and will never suffer a major earthquake, every small earthquake in the last few years has identified a new fault zone.

The seismometer will record any earthquake over a 3.5 magnitude within a radius of approximately 93 miles from AU and all earthquakes over a 6.5 magnitude anywhere in the world.

“This is a benefit for everyone on campus as anyone can access the seismometer and be a part of real-time science,” said Polad. “For most people, earthquakes are something they hear about on the news. This makes a scientific event more personal. Students will benefit from the opportunity by adding hands-on learning to the lecture and activities we do in the classroom.”

The seismograph can be viewed on the first floor of Stephens Hall. The IRIS website also provides a real-time image of the seismograph with a 10-minute delay for uploading the data. The screen shows 24 hours of data with hours on the Y axis and minutes on the X axis. The newest data is on the bottom line which scrolls to the right.