The occurrence of strong earthquakes typically leads to loss of many human lives and extensive destruction of infrastructure. The scale of tragedy could be greatly reduced if we could predict the time and place of such catastrophic events. The CREDO project, which was initiated in 2016 by the Institute of Nuclear Physics of the Polish Academy of Sciences (IFJ PAN) in Krakow, in collaboration with scientists from the Institute of Physics in Opava, aims to validate the previously formulated hypothesis that changes in cosmic rays can be utilized to predict earthquakes.
„At first glance, it may seem strange that there is a correlation between earthquakes and cosmic rays, which reach us in their primary form mainly from the Sun and distant region of universe. However, Dr. Arman Tursunov of the Institute of Physics in Opava, referencing Dr. Piotr Homola from the Polish Academy of Sciences, elucidates that this notion is firmly rooted in well-defined physical principles. „The main idea is that strong earthquakes are related to the movements of tectonic plates within the liquid core beneath Earth's mantle. This dynamic motion generates eddy currents within the liquid core, which, in turn, contribute to the formation of Earth's magnetic field. Consequently, this magnetic field alters the trajectories of charged particles coming from outer space. And since major earthquakes are also associated with disturbances in the material flows driving Earth's dynamo, the planet's magnetic field undergoes rapid and substantial changes, consequently affecting the paths of cosmic rays. If a strong earthquake is to occur on Earth, it is preceded by alternations in the magnetic field, leading to detectable variations in the number of secondary cosmic ray particles recorded by ground-based detectors,“ explains Tursunov.
Cosmic ray variation as an earthquake predictor
Physicists associated with the CREDO project conducted a comprehensive analysis of cosmic ray intensity data obtained from two large stations, namely the Neutron Monitor Database, which encompasses data collected over the past fifty years, and the Pierre Auger Observatory, which has been collecting data since 2005. The observatories were chosen because they are both located on the equator and use different advanced detection techniques. The analytical process also encompassed the examination of solar activity variations sourced from Solar Influences data. Key information regarding Earth's seismic activity came from the US Geological Survey. Analyzes were performed using several statistical techniques. Remarkably, throughout the investigated timeframe, a discernible correlation was established between changes in cosmic ray intensity and the occurrence of all strong earthquakes on Earth in the observed period. „An important finding is that the data show deviations of cosmic rays 15 days prior to actual earthquakes! This finding brings tremendous optimism as it indicates the potential for early detection of forthcoming earthquakes. Unfortunately, while this data holds immense promise for early earthquake detection, it cannot be used to precisely forecast the specific location of an earthquake on Earth. Consequently, supplementary data, such as that provided by geologists or seismologists, becomes indispensable for accurate observations and predictions,“ adds Tursunov.
Manifestations of hidden matter in space?
However, the research also brought up many completely new questions. The analyses revealed a striking correlation peak recurring every 10-11 years, resembling the solar activity cycle. However, it does not match the maximum activity of our star at all! In addition, there are other periodicities of unknown nature present in both cosmic ray data and seismic data. The lack of classical explanations for these observed periodicities raises speculation about the possible role of other, less conventional phenomena. One such phenomenon could be the passage of Earth through a denser cloud of hidden matter (improperly referred to as dark matter), ), which manifests solely through gravitational effects. In the context of the Solar System, these clouds may arise due to the gravitational interaction between hidden matter and celestial bodies such as the Sun or other massive entities within our planetary system. In fact, it is precisely the nature of this hidden matter that the CREDO project is investigating. "As a whole, Earth with its strong magnetic field serves as an incredibly sensitive particle detector, surpassing human-made detectors by orders of magnitude. It is therefore reasonable to consider the possibility that it may react to phenomena that are invisible to our current measuring devices," concludes Tursunov.
About the CREDO project
The international project CREDO (Cosmic Ray Extremely Distributed Observatory) represents a virtual cosmic ray observatory accessible to anyone, consolidating and analyzing data from not only advanced scientific detectors but also from a large number of smaller detectors, including sensors embedded within smartphones. One of CREDO's main tasks is to monitor global changes in the flux of secondary cosmic rays hitting the surface of our planet. This radiation is most intensely produced in the Earth's stratosphere during the so-called Regener-Pfotzer maximum, where primary cosmic ray particles collide with molecules of gas in our atmosphere, initiating cascades of secondary particles. Dr. Arman Tursunov is actively involved in the project at the Institute of Physics in Opava. Truly anyone can participate in the project: If you wish to turn your smartphone into a cosmic ray detector, simply install the free CREDO Detector application and you can start registering cosmic particles within the ambient radiation surrounding us.