How can you know about Earth composition or Earth sub layers activities that provoke earthquakes and continental drift? You can always try to go down a volvano crater like in Journey to the Center of the Earth, however satellite observation would be a much practical solution ! Measuring magnetic and gravitational fields with satellites can give much more information on our Earth that Jules Verne would have dreamt of. Check the maps and data provided by ESA missions such as SWARM for magnetic field or GOCE for the gravitational field to convince yourself.
Earth magnetic and gravitational fields were the topic of Alpbach Summerschool organized by FFG (Austrian Research Promotion Agency) and ESA in which I took part this summer. 60 students from all over Europe attended this event in the middle of the beautiful Austrian Alps.
During the first few days we attended courses on magnetic and gravitational fields and on satellite mission design. Earth magnetic field comes from the movements of electrically charged particles, these movements may comes from the rise of less dense matters from the core of Earth (that may result in volcanoes or continents rifts). Measurements help to explain the geologic phenomena happening under our feet. Gravity field measurements help us to know about the composition of Earth (densier regions of Earth will have higher gravitational field) and its geodesy (the Earth shape is not completely a sphere).
In groups of 15 people we worked on a mission proposal to leverage satellites constellations for magnetic and gravitational remote sensing. Our team was called RUBIKS (Reconstruction of Undercrust Behaviour with Interconnected Kube Satellites) and we managed to propose a mission of 8 satellites that would map both the gravitational and magnetic field with a low-cost design and unprecedented time resolution.
Alpbach Summerschool was a tremendous experience that I recommend to anyone interested in space and science. It was intense with a lot of work but with what I learnt and the mission we came up with in the end, it was completely worth it. We were supported by two tutors and lecturers who gave us a lot of precious feedback.
Our efforts were rewarded by an award for the most innovative mission by a panel of experienced scientists and engineers. Special thanks for the CNES for the sponsorship, to Peter Faulkner, Michaela Gitsch, our tutors Olivier Carraz and Tyler Jones, and all the RUBIKS team.
That’s all for today, see you soon when I pop back to update my blog with more of my PhD experiences!