Transparent Earth

A seismic observatory deep underground

Graduate student Jason Van Beek of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology sets up Transparent Earth equipment on the 2000 Level.

Transparent Earth is developing a deep seismic observatory for scientific investigations, sensor technology development and safety at the Sanford Lab, which is located in the former Homestake gold mine.

The observatory's goal is move toward rapid imaging of dynamic processes underground. The project was originally conceived in three parts: a novel three-dimensional seismic array, research and development of unique MEMS-based downhole seismic instrumentation and implementation of software to locate and characterize underground seismic events associated with rock damage mechanisms at Homestake. Extensive mining at Homestake—370 miles of drifts, 14 shafts and 7,700 acres of excavated space—provides access to large volumes of rock. Large blocks of virtually pristine rock are readily accessible for experiments requiring these conditions.

Transparent Earth could help fulfill broad goals, established by the National Research Council in 2000, for geophysical monitoring of the earth. Principal investigators for Transparent Earth are William Roggenthen of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and Steven D. Glaser of the University of California, Berkeley.