The Italian Almanac

space probe

Italian News - February 1

A new Italian space probe may be able to predict earthquakes, giving people time to take preventive measures. Italian scientists say the probe might be able to give a 4 to 5hours advance warning of quakes by picking up variations in the radiation belts surrounding the Earth.

The probe was designed by Roberto Battiston, a physicist at theNational Nuclear Physics Institute (INFN). It was handed over to a delegation of Russian scientists on Friday and will be launched from a Russian space base on February 28, flying up to the International Space Station (ISS).

On April 15, Italian astronaut Roberto Vittori will arrive at the ISS and set up the probe to start collecting data. When Vittori gets back, the probe will automatically gather data which will be processed on the ground.

The Italian-made instrument is the world's first anti-earthquake probe, the first results are expected in about seven months time. Battiston cautioned that this mission was a preliminary experiment and more missions might be needed to categorically prove the hypothesis.

The probe, which Battiston described as "a jewel of Italian technology", was made by the INFN in collaboration with a consortium of three universities - Perugia, Roma-Tor Vergata and Roma Tre, as well as private firms.