DEMETER  is an acronym for Detection of Electro-Magnetic Emissions Transmitted from Earthquake Regions.

That's certainly a mouthful. Glad they use the acronym. The satellite's sensors are focused on the Earth's ionosphere.

"What the hell is an ionosphere?" you may ask. We'd best spend a moment answering that question so you'll be able to delight in DEMETER's discoveries.

You know about the the ball or sphere of air around Earth in which our clouds and weather patterns travel. This is the Troposphere. If you travel straight upward for six miles you will reach the top of the Troposphere.

Above that height, a bigger ball or sphere surrounds our planet that most people have also heard about. It's called the Stratosphere. There's still air at stratospheric heights. Up here is where the Sun's radiation interacts with the atmosphere and creates ozone. The simple truth about ozone is that's just oxygen with three electrons. And just so you're clear why people worry about the hole in the ozone layer, it is ozone (12 to 30 miles up) that protects us from most of the Sun's harmful UV (ultraviolet) rays.

But let's keep going up, way up, to the boundary where Earth's atmosphere ends above the Stratosphere and the emptiness of outer space begins. This boundary area isn't exactly empty. Up here a few scattered oxygen atoms still exist, along with a few hydrogen atoms.

Since way up here we're well above the protective ozone layer, the oxygen and hydrogen atoms are exposed to the full smack of the Sun's ultraviolet glare. And quite a smack it is, causing electrons to be stripped off the oxygen and hydrogen atoms. These naked electrons create a plasma a soup that conducts or channels electrical currents, as well as negatively charged particles called ions. That's why this sphere, the last, highest, and largest ball around Earth, is called the Ionosphere.

The Earth has a force field. We are all familiar with science fiction and the force fields so often employed to protect ships from alien attack. Earth's force field is electro-magnetic. It is generated by a vast quantity of molten, or melted, iron. This iron is heavy duty stuff, so naturally it has sunk to the core of the planet, where it is under tremendous pressure from the immense weight of Earth pressed down on it. This pressure has turned the core red hot and gotten it all slushy. You've actually seen what it looks like every time a documentary shows you molten iron being poured from a blast furnace into a mold to make something useful for humans.

Well, our Earth's molten iron core is making what is undoubtedly the most useful product for Earth, our force field. The force field rises up from the Earth's core in the equatorial regions and crashes back toward the Earth at the north and south poles. You've all seen the Ionospheric light show when Earth's force field takes a dive toward the poles.  The picture below is a reminder of the show, the Aurora Borealis. 

DEMETER has repeatedly detected rises in the density of electrons and ions over areas of Earth where quakes and volcanoes subsequently erupt. Check out the path of DEMETER near an earthquake site of the southern part of Japan between Tokyo and Osaka.

Now meditate a bit on the data. Go ahead, don't avoid it. The longer you look at it, the more you'll get the picture. DEMETER is still orbiting above you today. I'm most interested in analyzing the data from passes near the recent volcanic eruption in Southern Chile. The world's scientific community and those who built and manage the satelitte, the French CNES, Centre National D'Etudes Spatiales, are so impressed by the correlation DEMETER has found between increased density of ions and electrons in the Ionosphere prior to major geological events that they have extended the mission until 2010.

At this moment we now know that an increased density of ions and electrons in the Ionosphere can be used to predict major geological events. What remains to be determined is when the Earth will quake or molten rock will spew forth. Does the increase in ion and electron density precede events by months, weeks, days, or hours? DEMETER is holding out the promise that someday soon we'll be able to improve our predictions of these devastating natural events, which ultimately will result in DEMETER saving countless human lives.