On April 20, 2010, a deadly explosion at an offshore oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico damaged a well that was nearly a mile underwater. More than a month later, officials had yet to contain the slick.
This image of the Mississippi River Delta and nearshore waters was captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite on May 23, 2010. Oil appears light gray, occasionally streaked with brown. The largest oil patch is in the vicinity of the damaged well, but streamers of oil also spread to the northeast.
Oil slicks are notoriously hard to see in photo-like satellite images such as this one. A thin sheen of oil against an already dark background is often imperceptible unless viewing conditions place the oil slick in a particular spot of the image: the sunglint region. The slick was not in the sunglint region when this image was captured, and therefore, the slick is not as prominent as it has appeared in other images.
- Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Response, the official site of the Deepwater Horizon unified command.
- Current information about the extent of the oil slick is available from the Office of Response and Restoration at the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration.
- Information about the impact of the oil slick on wildlife is provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
NASA image courtesy the MODIS Rapid Response Team. Caption by Rebecca Lindsey.
- Aqua - MODIS