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The geomagnetic field is a fundamental property of our planet – it protects us from the solar wind, helps us navigate, and observations of local and global geomagnetic field variation on timescales from hours to years reveals information on a multitude of Earth and near-Earth phenomena such as ocean circulation pattern, tides, plasma bubbles in the Earth ionosphere and jet-streams in the core of our planet. Magnetic field fluctuations associated with natural phenomena such as earthquakes and hurricanes can also be observed, and close monitoring of the geomagnetic field variations by satellite systems will further enhance our knowledge and understanding of the coupling of our complex Earth and near-Earth system.

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Searching for underground energy sources from space

27 July 2015

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Data from ESA's GOCE gravity satellite are being used to improve models of Earth's geology, indicating the potential locations of subsurface energy sources.

The satellite known as the 'Ferrari of space' has measured Earth's gravity with unrivalled precision, thanks to its extraordinarily low orbit about 255 km high - about 500 km lower than most Earth observation satellites.

At the end of 2012, low fuel consumption allowed operators to extend the mission's life and start to lower the satellite a further 31 km for even more accurate measurements. This was at the very limit of its capability but maximised the return for science.

Although GOCE's mission ended in October 2013, the gravity data from this super-low orbit has improved our understanding of Earth's interior, including identifying areas where oil and gas - the primary energy source for today's civilisations - might be present.

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