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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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