A geostationary optical seismometer, proof of concept

R. Michel, J. P. Ampuero, J. P. Avouac, N. Lapusta, S. Leprince, D. C. Redding, S. N. Somala

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


We discuss the possibility of imaging the propagation of seismic waves from a very large space-based optical telescope. Images of seismic waves propagating at the Earth's surface would be an invaluable source of information for investigating earthquake physics and the effect of the subsurface on earthquake ground motions. This application would require ground displacement measurements at about every 100 m, with centimetric accuracy, and temporal sampling on the order of 1 Hz. A large field of view (> 105 km2 ) is required to measure the full extent of a large earthquake in the areas of interest. A geostationary optical telescope with a large aperture appears to be the most promising system. We establish preliminary technical requirements for such a system, which lead us to consider a telescope with an angular field of view of 0.8° and with an aperture greater than 4 m. We discuss and quantify the various sources of noise that would limit such a system: atmospheric turbulence, evolution of ground reflectance and solar incidence angle, and stability of the platform at 1 Hz. We present numerical simulations, which account for these sources of noise. They show that key details of the seismic wave field, hardly detectable using ground-based instruments, would indeed be imaged by such a system. At the upper limit of modern technology, data flow would be about 20-50 Gb s-1 , and data memory would be about 50 Tb.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6236135
Pages (from-to)695-703
Number of pages9
JournalIEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Jan 2013


  • Correlation
  • Earth monitoring
  • earthquakes
  • geophysical deformations
  • geostationary
  • large space telescope
  • optical flow
  • photoclinometry
  • subpixel


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