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A matter of gravity

Map of planetary field is sharpest ever

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12:33pm, April 5, 2011

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As seen by a supersensitive gravity-detecting satellite, Earth isn’t a pale blue dot. It’s a colorful, irregular lump. Kind of like a tuber.

“Rotating potato — I don’t like this word,” said Roland Pail, a geoscientist at the Technical University of Munich. He and other researchers unveiled the new map of the Earth’s gravity field on March 31 at a scientific workshop in Munich.

Yet a rainbow potato it is. This image represents a sort of theoretical sea level known as the “geoid” — a surface where the ocean would rest if not pushed around by internal currents, tides and the weather.

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