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Gizmorama - March 20, 2017

Good Morning,

An underground laser-based gyroscope will be used to measure the inertial rotation of Earth. It sounds like science fiction, but it's science fact. Very interesting.

Learn about this and more interesting stories from the scientific community in today's issue.

Until Next Time,

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*-- Scientists measure Earth's rotational forces with underground laser gyroscope --*

Scientists are preparing to measure the inertial rotation of Earth using an underground laser-based gyroscope. The goal is to reveal fluctuations in Earth's rate of rotation and confirm a component of the theory of relativity known as the Lense-Thirring effect.

"This effect is detectable as a small difference between Earth's rotation rate value measured by a ground based observatory and the value measured in an inertial reference frame," Jacopo Belfi, researcher at the Italian National Institute for Nuclear Physics, said in a news release. "This small difference is generated by Earth's mass and angular momentum and has been foreseen by Einstein's general theory of relativity."

In order for scientists to directly observe the Lense-Thirring effect, they must measure Earth's rotation rate vector with extreme precisions -- with a "relative accuracy better than one part per billion," Belfi said.

Astronomers at the INFN's Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso hope their Gyroscopes in General Relativity program will allow them to do just that.

Eventually, the program will boast several ring laser gyroscopes buried beneath Earth's surface. So far, just one -- the single-axis GINGERino instrument -- has been installed in the subterranean lab. The installation was detailed this week in the journal Review of Scientific Instruments.

The gyroscopes, or RLGs, will be able to measure the rotation of Earth's surface with unprecedented precision -- and without interference from surface-level disturbances like those from hydrology, temperature or barometric pressure changes.

Initially, GINERino and its companions will be focused on measuring Earth's rotational forces within an astronomical and relativistic context. But scientists say the instruments could be used for research in geophysics and volcanology.

"One peculiarity of the GINGERino installation is that it's intentionally located within a high seismicity area of central Italy," Belfi added. "Unlike other large RLG installations, GINGERino can actually explore the seismic rotations induced by nearby earthquakes."

*-- Technology can reduce GPS outages from Northern Lights, researchers say --*

Scientists studying the Northern Lights say they think their research will lead to new technology to reduce outages from satellite navigation systems.

Researchers at the University of Bath in England found for the first time that turbulence does not take place within the Northern Lights and instead that unknown mechanisms are responsible for the outages of Global Navigation Satellite Systems. The researchers concluded new technology can be developed to overcome these outages from the Northern Lights, also known as Aurora borelias.

"This new understanding of the mechanisms which affect GNSS outages will lead to new technology that will enable safe and reliable satellite navigation," Dr. Biagio Fort, lead researcher on the study, said in a press release Monday. Fort is a lecturerer in the Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering at the school.

The Northern Lights, which occur at the North and South magnetic poles, are the result of collisions between gaseous particles in the Earth's atmosphere with charged particles from the sun's atmosphere.

The research in collaboration with the European Incoherent Scatter Scientific Association observed the Northern Lights in Tromso, northern Norway, using radar and a co-located GNSS receiver in 2013.

GNSS signals identified how the Northern Lights interfere with GPS signals.

"The experiment has provided new insights into the type of structures that cause scintillation on GPS L band signals at auroral latitudes," researchers wrote in the study, which is published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

"The potential impact of inaccurate GNSS signals could be severe," Forte said. "Whilst outages in mobile phones may not be life-threatening, unreliability in satellite navigations systems in autonomous vehicles or drones delivering payloads could result in serious harm to both humans and the environment."

GNSS pinpoints the geographic location of a user's receiver anywhere in the world. In the United States it is known as Global Positioning System, or GPS. Satellites are positioned at an altitude of 9,320 miles.

"With increasing dependency upon GNSS with the planned introduction of 5G networks and autonomous vehicles which rely heavily on GNSS, the need for accurate and reliable satellite navigation systems everywhere in the world has never been more critical," Forte said.


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