NASA’s Terra Satellite Image of Gulf Oil Slick on May 31
[Image credit: NASA/Goddard/MODIS Rapid Response Team]
Online — Beneath scattered clouds, streaks and ribbons of oil brightened the reflection of the sun off the Gulf of Mexico in the latest photo-like satellite image from NASA’s Terra satellite, taken on May 31, 2010.
This image of the Gulf of Mexico was captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument that flies aboard NASA’s Terra satellite.
Oil is visible 355 kilometers (221 miles) southwest of the site of the damaged, leaking Deepwater Horizon well. (For perspective, this distance would be like an oil leak in New York City that spread southwest as far as Washington, D.C., or a leak in Las Vegas that spread to Los Angeles.) The streaks of oil in the southwest corner of the image are on the order of 2 kilometers (1 mile) wide.
Photo-like satellite images are not a perfect tool for detecting oil on the surface of water. Outside of the sunglint area (the part of the satellite image where the mirror-like reflection of the sun is blurred into a wide, washed out strip by waves), the oil may be imperceptible against the dark background of the water.
Scientists and disaster responders in the Gulf are combining photo-like satellite images and aircraft and shipboard observations with weather and ocean current models to predict the spread of oil.
Text credit: Rebecca Lindsey, NASA’s Earth Observatory at the Goddard Space Flight Center
For more information visit appropriate NASA Web pages beginning with: www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/oilspill/oil_spill_gallery.html