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Oil Slick in the Gulf of Mexico
This page contains archived content and is no longer being updated. At the time of publication, it represented the best available science. However, more recent observations and studies may have rendered some content obsolete.
Oil from the damaged Deepwater Horizon oil well lingered off the Mississippi Delta on July 4, 2010. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra captured this natural-color image the same day. The oil appears as an uneven light gray shape east-southeast of the delta.
The oil was visible to MODIS on July 4 thanks to sunglint. Oil smoothes the surface of the water, making it a better mirror of sunlight. As a result, close to the Sun’s reflection, the oil is brighter than surrounding water. This is especially true between the Mississippi Delta and the Deepwater Horizon location. East of the rig, however, sunglint lightens most of the water, making it more difficult to distinguish oil from oil-free water. Please see the links below for more information.