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Earth Moves

Written by Morgan Kelly

88358489A seismic station installed this year at the University’s Allegheny Observatory has revived Pitt’s work in seismology and—as the region’s only seismic station—united Western Pennsylvania with a global network of scientists aiming to better understand the Earth’s structure. The Cathedral of Learning originally housed an earth-floor “seismic vault” equipped with a seismograph, but the antiquated apparatus was dismantled several decades ago. The new station boasts a highly sensitive seismograph—a heavy steel canister that must be perfectly level—that can detect as little as a half-nanometer-per-second displacement of the Earth’s crust caused by earthquakes anywhere in the world. Its readings are fed into the public database of the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology, a consortium of universities pooling and analyzing seismic data.