Discover Earth’s gravity in a whole new way with the ‘Potsdam Gravity Potato’. Ever since Isaac Newton’s groundbreaking discovery of gravity in the 17th century, we have known that all beings on Earth are subjected to the gravitational force of the planet. However, the true nature and intensity of gravity still remains one of nature’s greatest mysteries.
While we experience gravity keeping us firmly grounded, it varies in strength across different locations on Earth. Yet, the full understanding of this force eludes us. According to Einstein’s general theory of relativity, gravity is not a physical force but rather a curvature of space-time caused by mass. In other words, matter bends space, and space in turn moves matter along its curved path.
Albert Einstein proposed the theory of ‘gravitational waves’, a concept that carries gravity. And finally, on February 12, 2016, a century after the emergence of the general theory of relativity, these gravitational waves were detected by the LIGO Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, confirming Einstein’s revolutionary ideas.
The ‘Potsdam Gravity Potato’ provides a visual representation of Earth’s gravity field. This innovative model was created using data collected by artificial satellites, CHAMP (Challenging Mini Satellite Payload) and GRACE (Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment). Equipped with high-sensitivity sensors, these satellites orbited Earth at low altitudes, capturing detailed measurements of gravity. The resulting model, shaped like a potato, earned its endearing nickname due to the research being predominantly conducted in Potsdam, Germany. It is also known as the ‘Gravity Map of the Earth’.
The German scientific satellite, CHAMP, launched in July 2000, plays a vital role in measuring and transmitting data about Earth’s magnetic field and gravity. The GRACE satellites, launched in March 2002 as a collaborative effort between the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), consist of two satellites orbiting Earth at the same altitude with a distance of approximately 220 km between them. As these satellites pass through regions with varying gravitational forces, such as mountains or oceanic boundaries, their distance from each other slightly changes.
The Potsdam Gravitational Potato gained widespread attention when it was featured in NASA’s ‘Astronomical Picture of the Day (APOD)’ on December 15, 2014. In this map, areas with higher protrusions are highlighted in red to indicate stronger gravity, while indentations, such as those near the Indian Ocean, are depicted in blue to represent weaker gravity. The irregular shape reflects the uneven distribution of Earth’s density and landmass, which affect gravity.
Studying this map over an extended period can unveil fascinating insights into mass movements on Earth’s surface, including the melting of glaciers and changes in ocean currents. The Potsdam Gravitational Potential is closely related to the Geoid, which is an isopotential surface relative to mean sea level. The gravity map was refined and updated in 2011 with more precise gravity data, enhancing its accuracy and reliability.
By unraveling the mysteries of Earth’s gravity, we gain a deeper understanding of our planet’s dynamics and its impact on crucial environmental factors. The ‘Potsdam Gravity Potato’ serves as a remarkable tool in this ongoing quest for knowledge.
-Lee Kwang-sik, Science Columnist
[서울신문 나우뉴스]Do you want to see Earth’s gravity with your own eyes? If so, you can use the ‘Potsdam Gravity Potato’. Since Isaac Newton of England in the 17th century discovered the existence of gravitation, the universal gravitational force that dominates the universe, and completed the gravitation equation, it has been known that all beings on earth are within the territorial circle of gravity of the earth, but the true severity of gravity Its identity is still one of nature’s greatest mysteries.
Thanks to the earth’s gravity we live with our feet on the ground instead of floating in the air, but there are places on Earth where gravity is strong and places where it is relatively weak. However, the identity of gravity has not yet been fully elucidated. According to Einstein’s general theory of relativity, gravity is not a real force, but a curvature of space-time caused by mass. Matter bends space, and space moves matter according to its curved curve.
The theory of ‘gravitational waves’ carrying gravity was proposed by Einstein, and finally, on February 12, 2016, a century after the general theory of relativity emerged, the gravitational waves produced when two black holes 1.3 billion light years away from the combined earth (LIGO Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory).
The ‘Potsdam Gravity Potato’ above is a visualization of the size of the earth’s gravity field created by the artificial satellites CHAMP (Challenging Mini Satellite Payload) and GRACE (Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment) equipped with high sensitivity sensors as they rotate the earth at the height of the earth’s surface It is a dimensional earth model. The resulting product is shaped like a potato, and got a slightly humorous name because the research was mainly carried out in Potsdam, Germany. It is also known as the ‘Gravity Map of the Earth’.
CHAMP is a German scientific satellite launched in July 2000. It measures and transmits data about the Earth’s magnetic field and gravity once every 10 seconds. The GRACE satellite was launched in March 2002 as a joint project between the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The GRACE satellites are two satellites that orbit the Earth at the same altitude, and the two satellites maintain an interval of approximately 220 km and an orbit. However, when passing through a place where the force of gravity changes according to the density change inside the earth, such as a high mountain, a valley, or the boundary between sea and land, a small change in the distance between which there will be two satellites.
The Potsdam Gravitational Potato, based on CHAMP and GRACE observations, attracted much attention when it was presented in NASA’s ‘Astronomical Picture of the Day (APOD)’ on December 15, 2014. The protruding areas are higher on the this map are colored red to show that gravity is stronger than other areas. Indentations, such as those around the Indian Ocean, are areas of weaker gravity and are highlighted in blue. The reason for the rough shape is that the earth’s density distribution or land distribution, which causes gravity, is irregular.
Studying this map over a long period of time can reveal mass movement on the Earth’s surface, which can reveal melting glaciers and changes in ocean currents. The Potsdam Gravitational Potential corresponds to the Geoid, which is an isopotential surface relative to mean sea level. The gravity map above was completed by adding more precise gravity data in 2011 to the map created in 2005.
Lee Kwang-sik, science columnist email@example.com
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