Seismologists say a NASA plane

Seismologists say a NASA plane equipped with sophisticated new radar will be a regular visitor to the skies over California's San Andreas Fault.

The Uninhibited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar was recently installed on a Gulfstream jet that will make repeated flights along the fault line at an altitude of 45,000 feet looking for signs of building pressure that could indicate a major earthquake is on the way.

"This will give us a much clearer picture of which faults are active and at what rates they're moving, both before earthquakes and after them," Andrea Donnellan, a researcher at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told the Orange County (Calif.) Register.

The newspaper said Sunday that UAVSAR relies on the plane's advanced navigation to fly a precise track that can be repeated at an accuracy of 15 feet.

"By comparing these repeat-pass radar observations, we hope to measure any crustal deformations that may occur between observations, allowing us to 'see' the amount of strain building up in the San Andreas and adjoining faults," Donnellan said.

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