Surveys in Geophysics

, Volume 40, Issue 1, pp 107–132 | Cite as

How to Calculate Bouguer Gravity Data in Planetary Studies

  • Robert TenzerEmail author
  • Ismael Foroughi
  • Christian Hirt
  • Pavel Novák
  • Martin Pitoňák


In terrestrial studies, Bouguer gravity data is routinely computed by adopting various numerical schemes, starting from the most basic concept of approximating the actual topography by an infinite Bouguer plate, through adding a planar terrain correction to account for a local/regional terrain geometry, to more advanced schemes that involve the computation of the topographic gravity correction by taking into consideration a gravitational contribution of the whole topography while adopting a spherical (or ellipsoidal) approximation. Moreover, the topographic density information has significantly improved the gravity forward modeling and interpretations, especially in polar regions (by accounting for a density contrast of polar glaciers) and in regions characterized by a complex geological structure. Whereas in geodetic studies (such as a gravimetric geoid modeling) only the gravitational contribution of topographic masses above the geoid is computed and subsequently removed from observed (free-air) gravity data, geophysical studies focusing on interpreting the Earth’s inner structure usually require the application of additional stripping gravity corrections that account for known anomalous density structures in order to reveal an unknown (and sought) density structure or density interface. In planetary studies, numerical schemes applied to compile Bouguer gravity maps might differ from terrestrial studies due to two reasons. While in terrestrial studies the topography is defined by physical heights above the geoid surface (i.e., the geoid-referenced topography), in planetary studies the topography is commonly described by geometric heights above the geometric reference surface (i.e., the geometric-referenced topography). Moreover, large parts of a planetary surface have negative heights. This obviously has implications on the computation of the topographic gravity correction and consequently Bouguer gravity data because in this case the application of this correction not only removes the gravitational contribution of a topographic mass surplus, but also compensates for a topographic mass deficit. In this study, we examine numerically possible options of computing the topographic gravity correction and consequently the Bouguer gravity data in planetary applications. In agreement with a theoretical definition of the Bouguer gravity correction, the Bouguer gravity maps compiled based on adopting the geoid-referenced topography are the most relevant. In this case, the application of the topographic gravity correction removes only the gravitational contribution of the topography. Alternative options based on using geometric heights, on the other hand, subtract an additional gravitational signal, spatially closely correlated with the geoidal undulations, that is often attributed to deep mantle density heterogeneities, mantle plumes or other phenomena that are not directly related to a topographic density distribution.


Bouguer gravity Correction Moon Telluric planets Topography 



This research is conducted under the HK science Project 1-ZE8F: Remote-sensing data for studding the Earth’s and planetary inner structure. Prof. Pavel Novák and Dr. Martin Pitoňák are supported by the Project 18-06943S of the Czech Science Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Tenzer
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ismael Foroughi
    • 2
  • Christian Hirt
    • 3
  • Pavel Novák
    • 4
  • Martin Pitoňák
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Land Surveying and Geo-InformaticsHong Kong Polytechnic UniversityKowloonHong Kong
  2. 2.Department of Geodesy and GeomaticsUniversity of New BrunswickFrederictonCanada
  3. 3.Institute for Astronomical and Physical Geodesy and Institute for Advanced Study, TUMunichGermany
  4. 4.New Technologies for the Information Society (NTIS), Faculty of Applied SciencesUniversity of West BohemiaPlzeňCzech Republic

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