'Potato Earth' Reveals Gravity's Uneven Pull

Goce satellite image gives clues on climate change, earthquakes
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Apr 1, 2011 2:45 PM CDT
In this handout image supplied by the European Space Agency, a rendering of the Earth is shown as seen by the Goce satellite. Yellow areas show the strongest gravitational pull; blue the weakest.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – Gravity pulls harder on the French than it does on Americans—and a new image proves it. The graphic from earth’s lowest-flying scientific satellite shows the uneven distribution of gravity across the world, resulting in an exaggerated “potato”-shaped image, the BBC reports. The new data could have big implications for climate studies, revealing more about how oceans move and redistribute the sun’s heat around the globe.

The data from the satellite, known as Goce, also fascinates earthquake experts: It could show what was happening underground when Japan’s quake struck, in three dimensions. Goce’s precision is the result of Europe’s “best minds,” the BBC notes. “Ten years ago, Goce was science fiction; it's been one of the biggest technological challenges we have mastered so far in the European Space Agency,” says an official. Click through for an interactive graphic.

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