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Nowadays one of the major objectives in geosciences is the determination of the gravitational field of our planet, the Earth. A precise knowledge of this quantity is not just interesting on its own but it is indeed a key point for a vast number of applications. The important question is how to obtain a good model for the gravitational field on a global scale. The only applicable solution - both in costs and data coverage - is the usage of satellite data. We concentrate on highly precise measurements which will be obtained by GOCE (Gravity Field and Steady State Ocean Circulation Explorer, launch expected 2006). This satellite has a gradiometer onboard which returns the second derivatives of the gravitational potential. Mathematically seen we have to deal with several obstacles. The first one is that the noise in the different components of these second derivatives differs over several orders of magnitude, i.e. a straightforward solution of this outer boundary value problem will not work properly. Furthermore we are not interested in the data at satellite height but we want to know the field at the Earth's surface, thus we need a regularization (downward-continuation) of the data. These two problems are tackled in the thesis and are now described briefly. Split Operators: We have to solve an outer boundary value problem at the height of the satellite track. Classically one can handle first order side conditions which are not tangential to the surface and second derivatives pointing in the radial direction employing integral and pseudo differential equation methods. We present a different approach: We classify all first and purely second order operators which fulfill that a harmonic function stays harmonic under their application. This task is done by using modern algebraic methods for solving systems of partial differential equations symbolically. Now we can look at the problem with oblique side conditions as if we had ordinary i.e. non-derived side conditions. The only additional work which has to be done is an inversion of the differential operator, i.e. integration. In particular we are capable to deal with derivatives which are tangential to the boundary. Auto-Regularization: The second obstacle is finding a proper regularization procedure. This is complicated by the fact that we are facing stochastic rather than deterministic noise. The main question is how to find an optimal regularization parameter which is impossible without any additional knowledge. However we could show that with a very limited number of additional information, which are obtainable also in practice, we can regularize in an asymptotically optimal way. In particular we showed that the knowledge of two input data sets allows an order optimal regularization procedure even under the hard conditions of Gaussian white noise and an exponentially ill-posed problem. A last but rather simple task is combining data from different derivatives which can be done by a weighted least squares approach using the information we obtained out of the regularization procedure. A practical application to the downward-continuation problem for simulated gravitational data is shown.

The mathematical formulation of many physical problems results in the task of inverting a compact operator. The only known sensible solution technique is regularization which poses a severe problem in itself. Classically one dealt with deterministic noise models and required both the knowledge of smoothness of the solution function and the overall error behavior. We will show that we can guarantee an asymptotically optimal regularization for a physically motivated noise model under no assumptions for the smoothness and rather weak assumptions on the noise behavior which can mostly obtained out of two input data sets. An application to the determination of the gravitational field out of satellite data will be shown.