Feeds

Scientists eye curvaceous Earth gravity map

ESA unveils new geoid

Intelligent flash storage arrays

The European Space Agency today unveiled a new gravity map of Earth put together using data from its Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) satellite.

The "geoid" represents "the surface of an ideal global ocean in the absence of tides and currents, shaped only by gravity", ESA explains, adding: "It is a crucial reference for measuring ocean circulation, sea-level change and ice dynamics – all affected by climate change."

The GOCE geoid. Pic: ESA

Rune Floberghagen, ESA's GOCE mission manager, said: "This is a highly significant step for the mission. We now look forward to the coming months, when additional data will add to the accuracy of the GOCE geoid, further benefiting our data users."

Artist's impression of GOCE orbiting over ice. Pic: ESAGOCE launched back in March 2009, and has now spent over 12 months collecting data with its Electrostatic Gravity Gradiometer. It relies on electric ion propulsion engines to compensate for "the tiny amount of drag generated by the few wisps of atmosphere" at its operating orbital height of around 250 km (155 miles).

Volker Liebig, head of ESA's Earth Observation Programmes said: "Benefiting from a period of exceptional low solar activity, GOCE has been able to stay in low orbit and achieve coverage six weeks ahead of schedule.

"This also means that we still have fuel to continue measuring gravity until the end of 2012, thereby doubling the life of the mission and adding even more precision to the GOCE geoid."

As well as its use in oceanographic studies, the geoid could help "improve our understanding of Earth’s internal structure", leading to "a deeper knowledge of the processes that cause earthquakes".

The recent Japanese earthquake was caused by suboceanic tectonic movement which is not visible from space. However, such events cause "signatures in gravity data, which could be used to understand the processes leading to these natural disasters and ultimately help to predict them". ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Boffins who stare at goats: I do believe they’re SHRINKING
Alpine chamois being squashed by global warming
What's that PONG? Rosetta probe shoves nose under comet's tail
Rotten eggs, horse dung and almonds – yuck
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
LONG ARM of the SAUR: Brachially gifted dino bone conundrum solved
Deinocheirus mirificus was a bit of a knuckle dragger
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.