Seismograph in Young Hall picks up on earthquake
November 22, 2012 By Elizabeth Trollinger
earthquake centered near Whitesburg, Ky., on Saturday,
A recent earthquake in eastern Kentucky was too far away for members of the Centre community to feel the ground shake—but a seismograph in Centre’s Young Hall was able to pick up on the movement.
“There was a magnitude 4.3 earthquake at 12:08 P.M. EST on Saturday, Nov. 10,” says Conrad Shiba, associate professor of chemistry. “It was centered 7.8 miles west of Whitesburg, Ky., and was widely felt in eastern Kentucky and Tennessee.”
This earthquake was the first time the seismograph was able to pick up on geological movements.
“In the natural science lab in Young Hall we have a Steiner EQ-1 seismograph system that we acquired in May of 2008. Until last weekend, it had not had a real-world test on an earthquake. We would simulate earthquakes in my environmental geology class by jumping up and down and observing the squiggles on the recorder,” Shiba says. “I was delighted when I checked the instrument on Monday and found that it had indeed recorded the earthquake.”
Seismographs can feel earthquakes when humans cannot because of the sensitive nature of the equipment.
“The long horizontal arm suspended by a spring will vibrate up and down in response to an earthquake and generate an electrical signal that is displayed on the computer monitor,” says Shiba.
Shiba used field seismographs in a course on volcano monitoring at the Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes in Hawaii during the summer of 2011. Centre’s seismograph does not measure all movement, as some others do.
“The EQ-1 is a teaching/demonstration instrument and is a far cry from research seismometers that run $5,000 and up. Our seismograph responds only to vertical motion, while a research installation would also include sensors for north-south and east-west motion,” Shiba says. “Nevertheless, it was heartening to see that we could detect an earthquake on our instrument.”
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Centre College, founded in 1819, is a nationally ranked liberal arts college in Danville, Ky. Centre hosted its second Vice Presidential Debate on 10.11.12, and remains the smallest college in the smallest town ever to host a general election debate. For more, click here.