Direct measurement of diurnal polar motion by ring laser gyroscopes
We report the first direct measurements of the very small effect of forced diurnal polar motion, successfully observed on three of our large ring lasers, which now measure the instantaneous direction of Earth’s rotation axis to a precision of 1 part in 108 when averaged over a time interval of several hours. Ring laser gyroscopes provide a new viable technique for directly and continuously measuring the position of the instantaneous rotation axis of the Earth and the amplitudes of the Oppolzer modes. In contrast, the space geodetic techniques (VLBI, SLR, GPS, etc.) contain no information about the position of the instantaneous axis of rotation of the Earth, but are sensitive to the complete transformation matrix between the Earth-fixed and inertial reference frame. Further improvements of gyroscopes will provide a powerful new tool for studying the Earth’s interior.