Earth – Spud in Space!

When it comes to gravity, you can think of Earth as being shaped like a potato!

The European Space Agency (ESA) has provided scientists with the most accurate information on Earth’s gravity through the GOCE (Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer) satellite.

Having been in orbit for some 2 years, GOCE has returned enough data to produce this unusual and unrivaled look at Earth and how the pull of gravity varies from place to place.


'Potato Earth'

This extraordinary image produced from data recieved by the GOCE satellite shows Earth greatly skewed to demonstrate the varying changes of the pull of gravity. In the image gravity is strongest where the Earth is coloured yellow; weakest where it it blue. Credits: ESA/HPF/DLR

The ‘geoid’ is the surface of an ideal global ocean in the absence of tides and currents, shaped only by gravity. It is a crucial reference for measuring ocean circulation, sea-level change and ice dynamics – all affected by climate change. And it gives greater insight into the physics and dynamics of the Earth’s core potentially with greater understanding of volcanic and seismic activity. You can view an animation of the GOCE view of Earth and read more on the project in this BBC News report.

About Derek Shirlaw

I'm passionate about science communication, social media, and my home country, Scotland. In particular, I have a real interest in astronomy, digital marketing, and the great outdoors.
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