Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .

Delving Inside Earth from Space
by Staff Writers
Washington DC (SPX) Jun 27, 2012

The complete Geoflow laboratory experiment that was installed on the International Space Station. Geoflow is used to verify and improve computer models of fluid convection. (ESA)

European Space Agency, or ESA, astronaut Andre Kuipers is running experiments on the International Space Station that are shedding light on conditions deep inside Earth. Orbiting some 248 miles (400 km) above us, Geoflow is offering insights into the inner workings of our planet. Descending 1,864 miles (3,000 km) under our feet, Earth's mantle is a semi-solid fluid under our thin outer crust. The highly viscous layers vary with temperature, pressure and depth.

Understanding how the mantle flows is a major interest for geophysics because it could help to explain earthquakes or volcanic eruptions. Computers can model it, but how can scientists be sure they are correct?

The deepest that humans have ever drilled is just over 7.5 (12 km), so investigating the mantle directly is out of reach for the immediate future.

Instead of probing Earth's depths directly, six European teams led by the University of Cottbus in Germany looked to recreate aspects of mantle flow in a laboratory. Experiments simulating these conditions can verify and improve the computer models.

This poses a different problem, however. How can gravity be simulated without Earth's gravity itself influencing the results?

The solution is to send an experiment to our largest weightless laboratory: the International Space Station.

Planet in a box
ESA sponsored the development of an experiment that mimics the geometry of a planet. Called Geoflow, it contains two revolving concentric spheres with a liquid between them.

The inner sphere represents Earth's core, with the outer sphere acting as the crust. The liquid, of course, is the mantle.

Free from the influence of Earth's gravity, a high-voltage electrical field creates artificial gravity for the experiment.

As the spheres rotate slowly and a temperature difference is created between the shells, movement in the liquid is closely monitored. The temperatures can be controlled down to a tenth of a degree.

Andre has seen plumes of hotter liquid rising towards the outer shell - as predicted by computer simulations.

Mushroom-like plumes in fluids exposed to strong temperature differences might explain the Hawaiian line of volcanoes in the South Pacific.

A better understanding of our planet is not the only outcome of Geoflow. The results could also benefit industry by improving spherical gyroscopes, bearings and centrifugal pumps, for example.


Related Links
Earth Observation News - Suppiliers, Technology and Application

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Earth observation for us and our planet
Paris (ESA) Jun 25, 2012
The Rio+20 summit on promoting jobs, clean energy and a more sustainable use of our planet's resources closed after three days of talks. During the summit, the role of Earth observation in sustainable development was highlighted. In 1992, a blueprint to rethink economic growth, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection was adopted at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Braz ... read more

ESA to catch laser beam from Moon mission

Researchers Estimate Ice Content of Crater at Moon's South Pole

Researchers find evidence of ice content at the moon's south pole

Nanoparticles found in moon glass bubbles explain weird lunar soil behaviour

Opportunity Drives a Little

NASA tweaks flight path of Mars mission

Extensive Water in Mars Interior

Orbiter Out of Precautionary 'Safe Mode'

XCOR and Excalibur Almaz sign MOU for suborbital training services

Complex Challenges Solved In Tech Meetings For Commercial Crew Program

Boeing Completes Key Reviews of Space Launch System

Two NASA Visualizations Selected for Computers Graphics Showcase

Experts respond to rumors about Shenzhou-9

Staying stimulated in space

China's Hu praises astronauts for space advance

Packing Up Tiangong

Astrium awarded two ATV evolution studies from ESA

New Space Station Crew Confirmed

Spacewalk to work on ISS scheduled

Did You Say 1.2 Billion Particles Per Month?

SpaceX's Merlin 1D Engine Achieves Full Mission Duration Firing

USAF officials announce milestone Atlas V launch

EVE Underflight Calibration Sounding Rocket Launch

ILS and AsiaSat Announce a New Contract for an ILS Proton Launch

Forgotten Star Cluster Useful For Solar Science And Search for Earth Like Planets

SciTechTalk: Quick, name the planets!

Where Are The Metal Worlds And Is The Answer Blowing In The Wind

Metal-poor stars are rich with small planets

Google rolls in tablet market with Nexus 7

Mercury mineral evolution

Zynga building hub for mobile gadget game play

Google ramps up competition in hot tablet market

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement