Thursday, August 19, 2010

Goce satellite views Earth's gravity in high definition

Interesting, India's gravity different from the rest of the world

Earth's gravity pictured in 'HD'

By Jonathan Amos
Science correspondent, BBC News, Bergen

It is one of the most exquisite views we have ever had of the Earth.

This colourful new map traces the subtle but all pervasive influence the pull of gravity has across the globe.

Known as a geoid, it essentially defines where the level surface is on our planet; it tells us which way is "up" and which way is "down".

It is drawn from delicate measurements made by Europe's Goce satellite, which flies so low it comes perilously close to falling out of the sky.

Scientists say the data gathered by the spacecraft will have numerous applications.

One key beneficiary will be climate studies because the geoid can help researchers understand better how the great mass of ocean water is moving heat around the world.

The new map was presented here in Norway's second city at a special Earth observation (EO) symposium dedicated to the data being acquired by Goce and other European Space Agency (Esa) missions.

Europe is currently in the midst of a huge programme of EO development which will see it launch some 20 missions worth nearly eight billion euros before the decade's end.

The Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer (Goce) is at the front of this armada of scientific and environmental monitoring spacecraft.

Imaginary ball

Launched in 2009, the sleek satellite flies pole to pole at an altitude of just 254.9km - the lowest orbit of any research satellite in operation today.

The spacecraft carries three pairs of precision-built platinum blocks inside its gradiometer instrument that sense accelerations which are as small as 1 part in 10,000,000,000,000 of the gravity experienced on Earth.


The 'standard' acceleration due to gravity at the Earth's surface is 9.8m per second squared
In reality the figure varies from 9.78 (minimum) at the equator to 9.83 (maximum) at the poles
This has allowed it to map the almost imperceptible differences in the pull exerted by the mass of the planet from one place to the next - from the great mountain ranges to the deepest ocean trenches.

Two months of observations have now been fashioned into what scientists call the geoid.

"I think everyone knows what a level is in relation to construction work, and a geoid is nothing but a level that extends over the entire Earth," explained Professor Reiner Rummel, the chairman of the Goce scientific consortium.

"So with the geoid, I can take two arbitrary points on the globe and decide which one is 'up' and which one is 'down'," the Technische Universitaet Muenchen researcher told BBC News.

In other words, the map on this page defines the horizontal - a surface on which, at any point, the pull of gravity is perpendicular to it.

Put a ball on this hypothetical surface and it will not roll - even though it appears to have "slopes". These slopes can be seen in the colours which mark how the global level diverges from the generalised (an ellipsoid) shape of the Earth.

In the North Atlantic, around Iceland, the level sits about 80m above the surface of the ellipsoid; in the Indian Ocean it sits about 100m below.


1. Earth is a slightly flattened sphere - it is ellipsoidal in shape
2. Goce senses tiny variations in the pull of gravity over Earth
3. The data is used to construct an idealised surface, or geoid
4. It traces gravity of equal 'potential'; balls won't roll on its 'slopes'
5. It is the shape the oceans would take without winds and currents
6. So, comparing sea level and geoid data reveals ocean behaviour
7. Gravity changes can betray magma movements under volcanoes
8. A precise geoid underpins a universal height system for the world
9. Gravity data can also reveal how much mass is lost by ice sheets

The geoid is of paramount interest to oceanographers because it is the shape the world's seas would adopt if there were no tides, no winds and no currents.

If researchers then subtract the geoid from the actual observed behaviour of the oceans, the scale of these other influences becomes apparent.

This is information critical to climate modellers who try to represent the way the oceans manage the transfer of energy around the planet.

But a geoid has many other uses, too. Having a global level underpins a universal system to compare heights anywhere on Earth.

In construction, for example, it tells engineers which way a fluid would naturally want to flow through a pipeline.

Geophysicists will also want to use the Goce data to try to probe what's happening deep within the Earth, especially in those places that are prone to quakes and volcanic eruptions.

"The Goce data is showing up new information in the Himalayas, central Africa, and the Andes, and in Antarctica," explained Dr Rune Floberghagen, Esa's Goce mission manager.

"This is, in one sense, not so surprising. These are places that are fairly inaccessible. It is not easy to measure high frequency variations in the gravity field in Antarctica with an aeroplane because there are so few airfields from which to operate."

Goce's extremely low operating altitude was expected to limit its mission to a couple of years at most. But Esa now thinks it may be able to continue flying the satellite until perhaps 2014.

Unusually quiet solar activity has produced very calm atmospheric conditions, meaning Goce has used far less xenon "fuel" in its ion engine to maintain its orbit.

Ultimately, though, that fuel will run out and the drag from the residual air molecules at 255km will force the satellite from the sky.


The 1,100kg Goce is built from rigid materials and carries fixed solar wings. The gravity data must be clear of spacecraft 'noise'
The 5m-by-1m frame incorporates fins to stabilise the spacecraft as it flies through the residual air in the thermosphere
Goce's accelerometers measure accelerations that are as small as 1 part in 10,000,000,000,000 of the gravity experienced on Earth
The UK-built engine ejects xenon ions at velocities exceeding 40,000m/s; the engine throttles up and down to keep Goce at a steady altitude

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2010/06/28 14:50:45 GMT


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Sunday, August 15, 2010

A little inspiration from Hafiz

We have not come here to take prisoners,
but to surrender ever more deeply to freedom and joy…
Run my dear,
from anything
that may not strengthen
Your precious budding wings…

For we have not come here to take prisoners
Or to confine our wondrous spirits
But to experience ever and ever more deeply
Our divine courage, freedom, and Light!

— Sufi poet Hafiz

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Nature happenings in August!

More Nature Happenings for August

• Aug. 9: New Moon, Aug 24: Full Moon
• Aug. 12 - 13: Perseids Meteor shower
• Average temperature: 67.6ºF, Average precipitation: 3.48"
• Watch for Common Nighthawks hunting over open ground for flying insects in the late afternoon light.
• Hummingbirds are active at feeders and at flowers, sourcing protein from spiders and insects and sipping nectar for sugars.
• Male hummingbirds start their southbound migration this month, averaging 20 miles a day to wintering grounds in Central America and Mexico. Females head south later and juveniles will stay around until early October.
• Many of our summer visitors have finished their nesting cycle and will begin their migration south.
• Male Black-headed Grosbeaks will disappear from the landscape as they begin their southern migration; females and juveniles will follow in the coming weeks.
• Bullock's Orioles, our summer visitors that love to chatter notes high and low, will begin to migrate south.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Gabrielle's Laughing Lights Parade

From Intenders of the Highest Good Newsletter :
Align Center
Gabrielle's Laughing Lights Parade

Our friend, Gabrielle Silva from the Boulder, CO Intenders Circle, is one of the happiest, most light hearted people we know. She writes the Ragananda children's books and recently sent us the following letter:

"A couple of years ago, about the same time that I became an Intender, I started doing a breathing meditation where, on a great big SMILING INBREATH, I saw these little hearts with wings with smiley faces flowing out from my heart, swarming around me. Then, on the OUTBREATH, I saw them flying off gracefully to bring Holy Laughing Lightness to wherever it was needed. Actually, I can't really think of a single place on this planet that couldn't use a little Holy Laughing Lightness! Can you?

I've noticed a lot of benefits from pivoting out of drama, or other non-productive uses of my attention, into this simple breath. One benefit is - it's GLORIOUSLY fun! My experience with Intending has been that it all happens a lot faster if I'm in a happy, contented, PRESENT space. One Laughing Lights breath leads to another. It lends a whole new dancing energy to the word 'practice'.

The best part is that you can do it no matter what else you are doing. Eating, mowing the lawn, sailing, doing the laundry, INTENDING to do the laundry, it's all a lot more fun with Laughing Lights swirling around on every breath. Try it! You can post comments or questions on my InnerGalactiGazette blog on and I'll be happy to elaborate. However, it's not about words, it's about JUST DOING IT and finding out for yourself, breath by breath, what breathing and allowing Holy Laughing Lightness can bring to your life. See YOU at the Smiling Party!

Monday, August 2, 2010

August Nature News

Wild Birds Unlimited Nature News

Making the Most of Late Summer
Though this month marks the beginning of the end of summer, there are still plenty of opportunities to help birds and maximize your backyard enjoyment.

Hummingbird Migration
Millions of hummingbirds are preparing to fly back to their winter ranges. Hummingbirds have been migrating between North and Central America for hundreds of years, some traveling thousands of miles each way.

A high-calorie diet is important to build fat reserves for their trip, so be sure to have your hummingbird feeders ready.

Studies show that most of the hummingbirds visiting your feeders on a day toward the end of migration season are replaced by a new wave of migrants within 24 hours.

Offering Water
Whether they are feeder visitors or not, birds need water for drinking, bathing and preening. Offering a dependable source of water is the simplest and most important step you can take to increase the variety of birds in your yard.

Birds must be ready to fly at all times, especially during migration. Bathing is a critical part of keeping their feathers in top-flight condition.

Deter Unwanted Visitors

Mosquito Solutions
Mosquitoes lay their eggs in still water, so open sources of water can cause a potential mosquito problem. Use a fountain, waterfall accessory or Water Wiggler™ to create ripples and prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs in your bird baths. Water in motion is also more attractive to birds.

Nectar Feeding Solutions
Featuring bee guards, ports that are above the nectar and a built-in ant moat, our WBU Decorative Window Hummingbird Feeder allows you to feed your hummingbirds and prevent bees, wasps and ants from becoming a nuisance.

Aggressive male hummingbirds can bully others from visiting a feeder. By hanging multiple hummingbird feeders around your yard, you make it difficult for a territorial male to defend the area, allowing other birds to visit the feeders.

Starling and Grackle Solution
Offer safflower, and keep starlings and grackles from eating all your bird food and crowding your feeders and chasing away the birds you want to see. Safflower is a small, white seed that is high in protein and fat. Most song birds eat safflower, however, starlings, grackles and squirrels typically do not.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Our deepest fear

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate,

our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child

of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other

people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to

make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously

give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear,

our presence automatically liberates others."

The above excerpt is by MarrianneWilliamson from the book, A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles. Williamson, an acclaimed author and lecturer has empowered many to seek transformation and peace within, so that the world and ourselves will be changed. It has been rumored that Nelson Mandela spoke these words at his inaugural speech, but it has since been proven otherwise.