On October 1, 1987, the Los Angeles region experienced a strong and damaging earthquake of magnitude 6, followed four days later by an aftershock of magnitude 5.5 that caused further damage. The usual fears and uncertainties about earthquakes were heightened by a disturbing lack of sound, scientifically based information about the event in the minutes, hours, and days following the main shock.
This lack of information was especially disturbing to seismologists, who realize that the technology now exists to provide real-time assessments of earthquake ground motions during the critical moments after a major shock. That technology—a combination of sensors, satellites, and computers— has only to be put in place.
The California Institute of Technology has, therefore, proposed the construction of an advanced geophysical observatory— or terrestrial telescope—called the “Terrascope,” which will be able to supply seismic data of unprecedented quality during major earthquakes in California and around the world.