Monday, October 10, 2011
The twin satellites of the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) constantly beam information back to Earth.
(See the full story on the University of Texas at Austin Web site).
The data arrives in scientists’ computers as screens full of numbers. The scientists transform the bit and bytes into images to help them, other researchers and policymakers better understand the information.
The principal investigator of the GRACE misson is Byron Tapley, director of the Center for Space Research and professor in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin.
The images can be striking, colorful and understandable to non-scientists.
Here’s a a gallery of some of GRACE’s images.
This map reveals variations in the Earth's gravity field. Dark blue areas show areas with lower than normal gravity, such as the Indian Ocean (far right of image) and the Congo river basin in Africa. Dark red areas indicate areas with higher than normal gravity. The long red bump protruding from the lower left side of the image indicates the Andes Mountains in South America, while the red bump on the upper right side of the image indicates the Himalayan mountains in Asia.
Mass once concentrated as ice at the poles is flowing into the oceans and spreading across the globe. The meltwater is drawn away from the poles toward the equator because of the rotation of the Earth. The result is a bulge around Earth’s middle, balancing out any rounding effect from the withdrawal of glaciers.
An artist's concept of what the satellites look like as they look at Earth.
This image shows the mean annual amplitude of total water storage on Earth in 2007 as measured by GRACE.
Ohio State University scientists have used minute fluctuations in gravity to produce the best map yet of ocean tides that flow beneath two large Antarctic ice shelves.