Oil lingered on the water surface in the Gulf of Mexico on July 12, 2010. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this natural-color image the same day.
A dull gray patch of oil appears south of the approximate location of the well. To the south, the slick fans out, one edge of the slick extending some 25 kilometers (15 miles) to the east. West-southwest of the large oil slick, another patch of oil appears, this one running east-west. Slivers of oil also appear just east of the Mississippi Delta. Much of the discolored water around the delta, however, results from sediment.
Sunglint enhances the oil’s visibility in MODIS imagery. Oil smooths the water surface, changing the way it reflects and absorbs light. Close to where the Sun’s reflection would appear on a totally calm sea, oil-coated water usually looks brighter than surrounding oil-free water.
NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team. Caption by Michon Scott.