1st Joint Commission 2 and IGFS Meeting
International Symposium on
Gravity, Geoid and Height Systems 2016

September 19-23, 2016
Thessaloniki, Greece

New concepts for Earth observation based on quantum optics and relativity

20/09/2016 | 14:30 | Session 2: New measurement techniques


Jürgen Müller and Jakob Flury


New technology developed in fundamental physics provides enhanced capabilities for geodetic applications such as refined observations of the Earth’s gravity field. Here, we will present new sensor measurement concepts that apply atomic interferometry for (satellite) gravimetry and clock measurements for observing potential values. In the first case, gravity anomalies can be determined by observing free-falling atoms (quantum gravimetry), such techniques can also be applied for future gradiometric measurements in space. In the second case according to Einstein’s theory of general relativity, measurements of highly precise optical clocks give access to differences of the gravity potential over long distances (relativistic geodesy). Also inter-satellite ranging between test masses in space with nanometer accuracy belongs to these novel developments. For the latter, technology developed for gravitational wave detection and successfully tested in the LISA/pathfinder mission will be prepared for geodetic measurements.

Those concepts are elaborated in close cooperation between physicists and geodesists at the University of Hannover under the umbrella of the Collaborative Research Center SFB 1128 “Relativistic geodesy and gravimetry with quantum sensors (geo-Q)”.

We will present some examples where geodesy will potentially benefit from these developments. We will illustrate the application of the new methods for Earth observation, where local and global mass variations can be observed with unforeseen accuracy and resolution, mass variations that reflect processes in the Earth system.

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