At the Geodetic Observatory Wettzell, scientists from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) recently achieved a significant milestone in the investigation of variations in Earth’s rotationessential to the fields of astronomy, meteorology and climate modeling.
The central instrument of this advance is a ring laserwhich was designed to accurately measure fluctuations in the Earth’s rotation arising from its internal movements.
Study on Earth’s rotation variations
Ring laser used in the study – Image: Technical University of Munich/Reproduction
Led by Professor Ulrich Schreiber, the researchers overcame challenges associated with the device’s size and asymmetry, ensuring improved balance that results in more accurate measurements.
The symmetry of opposing laser beams, fundamental to Wettzell’s system, has also been successfully improved by using a theoretical model to capture and correct for systematic effects.
These improvements enabled accurate measurements to the ninth decimal place and shortened data collection intervals to every three hours.
O ring laser demonstrates remarkable independence from space reference points, differentiating itself from conventional systems that require stellar observations or satellite data to establish these reference points.
Urs Hugentobler, professor at TUM, emphasizes this characteristic, highlighting the uniqueness of the laser in its autonomy.
The measurements taken aim to determine the Earth’s precise position in space, providing substantial benefits to climate research and strengthening the reliability of climate models.
Professor Ulrich Schreiber, project supervisor, highlights the importance of fluctuations in the Earth’s rotation, not only for astronomy, but for the creation of accurate climate models and the understanding of meteorological phenomena, such as El Niño.
What will the Earth be like in the future? Discoveries surprise
Recent studies from the Technical University of Munich reveal a fascinating oscillation in the length of days on Earth over time.
Around 1.4 billion years ago, an Earth day lasted 18 hours and 41 minutes, while on Earth age of dinosaurs reached 11 p.m.
We currently live in 24-hour days, but projections suggest the possibility of 25-hour days in 200 million years.
The gradual reduction in rotational speed, around 1.7 milliseconds per century, is associated with elements such as tidal friction, generated by the gravitational interaction between the Earth and the Moon, together with seismic activity and changes in atmospheric circulation.
Using advanced technologies, scientists can accurately measure small fluctuations in Earth’s rotation, revealing that every two weeks we experience six-millisecond variations in our rotation.
These advances promise a clearer vision of the future of Earthnot just in climatic terms, but in understanding its evolutionary dynamics over millions of years.