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article imageGravity satellite depicts Earth as a planet shaped like a potato

By Andrew Moran     Apr 4, 2011 in Science
Munich - Our planet actually looks like a big potato, at least according to European Space Agency's GOCE satellite that shows the uneven distribution of gravity on Earth. The geoid map will help us better understand our planet.
There are many questions unanswered regarding our planet. Although it is our home in this universe, Earth remains mysterious and new questions keep occurring in the scientific community.
One new satellite map may provide us a better understanding of the Earth’s gravity.
A team of scientists revealed multi-colored images during a press conference in Munich Thursday that depict the planet’s uneven distribution of gravity across the globe. The European Space Agency’s Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Explorer (GOCE) satellite now gives us an accurate map of which region has more or less gravity.
The new data suggests that Earth looks like an asteroid shaped like a potato traveling through the galaxy. The two-year orbital surveys show regions that are highlighted by blue have less gravity and the parts with yellow have more.
“We see a continuous stream of excellent GOCE gradiometry data coming in. With each new two-month cycle, our GOCE gravity field model is getting better and better,” said former Head of the Institute for Astronomical and Physical Geodesy at the Technische Universität München, Professor Reiner Rummel.
“Now the time has come to use GOCE data for science and applications. I am particularly excited about the first oceanographic results. They show that GOCE will give us dynamic topography and circulation patterns of the oceans with unprecedented quality and resolution. I am confident that these results will help improve our understanding of the dynamics of world oceans.”
The two-day workshop of the study will give scientists the opportunity to better understand ice dynamics, measurements of ocean circulation and sea-level changes. Members of the international scientific community will have the chance to review the latest information on various aspects of the study, including satellite performances and user services.
“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,” said Director of ESA's Earth Observation Programmes, Volker Liebig. “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.”
BBC News has an interactive map where you can view different parts of the Earth that have more or less gravity.
GOCE was launched in March 2009 aboard a Russian ballistic missile. It flies about 160 miles (257 km) above the Earth – which is necessary in order to measure gravity, notes Spaceflight Now.
More about gravity satellite, Earth, Potato, Goce satellite, European space agency
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