Satellite imagery illustrates reach of Gulf oil spill
BY STEPHEN CLARK
Posted: June 29, 2010
A NASA spacecraft circling more than 400 miles above Earth has snapped a striking picture of oil streaming ashore in Mississippi, adding another photo to the growing catalog of satellite images of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
According to NASA, the Mississippi barrier islands are classified as lightly oiled this week, and officials say smaller sections are moderately and heavily oiled.
Scientists have also called upon powerful cameras aboard NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites to track the oil spill. The MODIS instruments on both spacecraft see the oil when the sunglint falls inside the slick, producing a clear discoloration visible from space.
International satellites have also observed the BP oil spill.
The European Space Agency's Envisat spacecraft carries a radar capable of seeing the oil spill through clouds and at night.
Commercial Earth observation satellites are collecting high-resolution imagery of the spill, skimming vessels and drilling rigs, providing a dramatic look into efforts to stop the underwater leak and remove oil from the ocean's surface.
Measurements of the oil flow rate from the 5,000-foot-deep well have been unreliable from the start, but the latest official estimate indicates up to 150 million gallons of oil may have leaked into the Gulf of Mexico since the crisis began.