Today’s Image of the Day includes excerpts from our recent feature: Flying for Science, Finding Beauty.
On November 12, 2017, NASA’s Operation IceBridge—an airborne mission to map polar ice—flew a high-priority mission over the Larsen C ice shelf. In July 2017, this region was significantly reshaped by the shedding of an iceberg the size of Delaware. (You can read about what it was like to see that massive berg for the first time in this blog post, and you can see satellite images here).
For most of the four-hour survey in November, as the aircraft flew back-and-forth along parallel lines over the ice shelf, the landscape appeared flat and white. These new flight lines followed the ground tracks of the future ICESat-2 satellite, providing baseline measurements for the satellite to pick up after it begins operations. The surveys that day also increased the amount of Larsen C that has been observed with a gravimeter, an instrument that helps scientists map the bedrock below the ice shelf and water, which radar and visual imagers cannot penetrate.
Visually, the landscape appeared more varied when the aircraft traced the edge of the ice shelf or soared over sea ice. These photographs show sea ice of various types in the Weddell Sea. They were acquired during the flight on November 12 by the Digital Mapping System (DMS), a camera mounted on the belly of the plane.
The first image shows sea ice about 5 kilometers south of Bawden Ice Rise. Older thicker plates of sea ice float within thinner, grayer, and likely newer sea ice. The black area areas are open water. The second photo is almost all sea ice, located in the rift now open between the Larsen C Ice Shelf and the giant iceberg. Much of the ice appears to be freshly formed.
NASA photographs from the NASA/Digital Mapping System. Story by Kathryn Hansen.