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A European spacecraft that skims the upper reaches of the atmosphere has mapped Earth's gravity with unrivalled precision. The map shows how the pull of gravity varies minutely over the surface of the Earth, from deep ocean trenches to majestic mountain ranges.
The measurements have allowed scientists to create a computer model called a geoid that reveals what Earth would look like if its shape were altered to make gravity equal at every point on the surface.
Researchers unveiled the latest data from the European Space Agency's Gravity and Ocean Circulation Explorer, or Goce, at a workshop in Munich on Thursday. The map shows areas of strongest gravity in yellow and weakest in blue.
There's big gravity low off the coast of India, where there are thought to be the remains of some old mantle features associated with the plate tectonics of India that led it to collide with the Himalayas. There's a big high in the South Pacific, also thought to be due to mantle structures.