Absolute Gravity Datum in the Age of Cold Atom Gravimeters
Abstract:The international gravity datum is defined today by the International Gravity Standardization Net of 1971 (IGSN-71). The data supporting this network was measured in the 1950s and 60s using pendulum and spring-based gravimeter ties (plus some new ballistic absolute meters) to replace the prior protocol of referencing all gravity values to the earlier Potsdam value.
Since this time, gravimeter technology has advanced significantly with the development and refinement of the FG-5 (the current standard of the industry) and again with the soon-to-be-available cold atom interferometric absolute gravimeters. This latest development is anticipated to provide improvement in the range of two orders of magnitude as compared to the measurement accuracy of technology utilized to develop ISGN-71. In this presentation, we will explore how the IGSN-71 might best be “modernized” given today’s requirements and available instruments and resources. The National Geodetic Survey (NGS), along with other relevant US Government agencies, is concerned about establishing gravity control to establish and maintain high order geodetic networks as part of the nation’s essential infrastructure. The need to modernize the nation’s geodetic infrastructure was highlighted in “Precise Geodetic Infrastructure, National Requirements for a Shared Resource” National Academy of Science, 2010. The NGS mission, as dictated by Congress, is to establish and maintain the National Spatial Reference System, which includes gravity measurements.
Absolute gravimeters measure the total gravity field directly and do not involve ties to other measurements. Periodic “intercomparisons” of multiple absolute gravimeters at reference gravity sites are used to constrain the behavior of the instruments to ensure that each would yield reasonably similar measurements of the same location (i.e. yield a sufficiently consistent datum when measured in disparate locales). New atomic interferometric gravimeters promise a significant increase in accuracy. Our presentation will also explore the impact of such an instrument on our theory of how to constrain the gravity datum and on how to ensure stability, repeatability, and reproducibility across different absolute gravimeter systems.