Europe has just launched a spaceship called Goce which can monitor tiny fluctuations in Earth’s gravity. These fluctuations are caused by such things as changes in ocean currents, melting ice caps, underground lava flows, and the presence of underground stores of oil, water, and various minerals.
It will, therefore, be immensely helpful in predicting volcanoes in time for people to escape from danger, for monitoring climate change, and in locating oil and other mineral deposits beneath Earth’s surface.
Later this spring, the Europeans are also launching Herschel, the most powerful telescope ever put into space. Unlike Hubble, Herschel detects infrared radiation. What scientists are hope to find out is whether stars developed after the galaxies were formed, or whether stars came first, and then massed together into galaxies, each of which has several hundred billion stars.
Another small step for mankind into a very very big universe…