Customary Science Talk – What is PILAB?

The PILAB acronym stands for Passive Imaging of the Lithosphere and Asthenosphere Boundary. The PILAB expedition aims at studying the interaction of the base of the rigid tectonic plate (the lithosphere) with the softer layer underneath it – the asthenosphere. The understanding of the interaction between the two layers is essential in order to better understand what makes plates ‘plate-like’, and thus understanding the origin of continents, ocean basins and mountain ranges. To achieve this, Ocean Bottom Seismometers (OBS) and Ocean Bottom Electro-Magnetic (OBEM) instruments were deployed across the Mid-Atlantic Ridge along the equator. The instruments were left at sea for a year to record seismic vibrations and measure the Earth’s electro-magnetic field. The data will eventually be used to map the Earth’s interior structure beneath the ridge.

This project is a collaboration between various institutions that are providing the instruments and technical expertise. These are University of Southampton (UoS), University of Bristol (UoB), Institut de Physique du Global de Paris (IPGP), Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) – University of Columbia, Scripps Institute of Oceanography (SIO) – University of San Diego, and GEOMAR from Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research, Kiel. The project is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the European Research Council (ERC), and the National Science Foundation (NSF). The Principal Investigator of the PILAB mission is Catherine A. Rychert from the University of Southampton.

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