Precession, nutation, and space geodetic determination of the Earth's variable gravity field

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Bourda, G.
Capitaine, N.
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Precession and nutation of the Earth depend on the Earth's dynamical flattening, H, which is closely related to the second degree zonal coefficient, J2 of the geopotential. A small secular decrease as well as seasonal variations of this coefficient have been detected by precise measurements of artificial satellites (Nerem et al. 1993; Cazenave et al. 1995) which have to be taken into account for modelling precession and nutation at a microarcsecond accuracy in order to be in agreement with the accuracy of current VLBI determinations of the Earth orientation parameters. However, the large uncertainties in the theoretical models for these J2 variations (for example a recent change in the observed secular trend) is one of the most important causes of why the accuracy of the precession-nutation models is limited (Williams 1994; Capitaine et al. 2003). We have investigated in this paper how the use of the variations of J2 observed by space geodetic techniques can influence the theoretical expressions for precession and nutation. We have used time series of J2 obtained by the "Groupe de Recherches en G\'eod\'esie spatiale" (GRGS) from the precise orbit determination of several artificial satellites from 1985 to 2002 to evaluate the effect of the corresponding constant, secular and periodic parts of H and we have discussed the best way of taking the observed variations into account. We have concluded that, although a realistic estimation of the J2 rate must rely not only on space geodetic observations over a limited period but also on other kinds of observations, the monitoring of periodic variations in J2 could be used for predicting the effects on the periodic part of the precession-nutation motion.
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Astrophysics, Physics - Space Physics
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