Thursday, October 1, 2009

Gravity Maps!

How's the gravity where you live? The GOCE satellite, gliding on its drag-free ion drive, is mapping which parts of the Earth pull harder than others...

After six months of testing and very careful calibration, the European Space Agency’s GOCE satellite is sending back its first data sets as it now begins precisely mapping tiny variations in Earth’s magnetic field. How does one go about mapping the Earth’s fundamental force? As it turns out, very, very carefully.

The Gravity field and steady state Ocean Circulation Explorer launched from Russia in March with the aim of creating a better understanding of Earth’s gravity and in turn the natural processes of our planet. Though gravity obviously exists everywhere on the planet, it is not distributed evenly across the planet’s surface. Geological differences like mountains or ocean trenches, density variations within the Earth’s crust and mantle, and the rotation of the Earth can cause slight changes to gravitational force. Knowledge of these changes is crucial to accurately measuring ocean circulation and sea levels.

Very interesting, although the bulk of these findings will be used towards an understanding of the interior processes that occur beneath the Earth- near the core. So, unless you're a geoscientist, the ensuing discoveries won't mean much.

[Link: Popular Science]

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