Monthly Archives: June 2009

The Moon’s Subtle Influence

Science or fiction, sometimes it is hard to tell. In 1997, a group of Chinese scientists hooked up a sensitive gravimeter, to automatically record the earth’s gravitational field (or more accurately, the local acceleration of the earth’s crust) in the obscure northeast China town of Mohe, Heilongjiang (Black Dragon River) province. They chose this town because it was near the center of the 1997 solar eclipse, achieving totality for about 2 minutes. They chose the most accurate unit available, it can detect the reduction in gravitation when it is raised 1cm.

After the eclipse they examined their data. They found the usual tidal effects and slow drifts but they also found an interesting signal at the beginning and end of the eclipse, a signal that indicated that the earth’s gravitation field weakened slightly, or that the location was lifted into the air a few cm, or, perhaps, the gravitational field of the sun or moon had increased slightly. Their data, published in Phys Rev D 62, 041101, in units of 10^{-6}cm/s^2 looked like this:

Mohe gravimeter eclipse data

Mohe eclipse data

Let’s look at the data. Our first step will be to look at the elevation of the sun.
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