30 September 2009
Following the launch and in-orbit testing of the most sophisticated gravity mission ever built, ESA’s GOCE satellite is now in ‘measurement mode’, mapping tiny variations in Earth’s gravity in unprecedented detail.
The ‘Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer’ (GOCE) satellite was launched on 17 March from northern Russia. The data now being received will lead to a better understanding of Earth’s gravity, which is important for understanding how our planet works.
It is often assumed that gravity exerts an equal force everywhere on Earth. However, owing to factors such as the rotation of the planet, the effects of mountains and ocean trenches, and density variations in Earth’s interior, this fundamental force is not quite the same all over.
Over two six-month uninterrupted periods, GOCE will map these subtle variations with extreme detail and accuracy. This will result in a unique model of the ‘geoid’ – the surface of an ideal global ocean at rest.
A precise knowledge of the geoid is crucial for accurate measurement of ocean circulation and sea-level change, both of which are influenced by climate. The data from GOCE are also much-needed to understand the processes occurring inside Earth. In addition, by providing a global reference to compare heights anywhere in the world, the GOCE-derived geoid will be used for practical applications in areas such as surveying and levelling.See More here and here
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