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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Night Vision

Night Vision

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Thursday, August 17, 2017/Categories: natural history, photography, space science, sustainability, environment, adventure , climate change

                                       Larsen-C Detachment Map, July 12, 2017 (credit: Project MIDAS)

This Journal has followed developments on Antarctica's Larsen-C ice-sheet with recent posts just as it began to finally separate and float away when it finally separated. The resulting iceberg is as large as the state of Delaware. So, how did glaciologists and other researchers, mid-summer in the northern hemisphere, know when a massive iceberg would separate from an ice shelf in the total darkness of Antarctica in mid-winter? They used cameras set with thermal infrared sensors (TIRS) on the Earth Observing Landsat-8 satellite. The cameras utilize IR sensors based on applied quantum physics to detect heat in two IR wavelengths. The technology can separate the temperature of the Earth’s surface from that of the surrounding atmosphere. Researchers at the Goddard Spaceflight Center then used the remote sensing technology to follow the the Larsen-C ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula as it completely separated in mid-winter. In the perpetual darkness of Antarctica’s winter, Landsat's Thermal Infrared Sensor was effectively provided 'nightvision'.


                Thermal Infrared Image, Larsen-C Iceshelf Crack (credit: NASA, USGS Landsat-8 IR sensor)

Because the satellite's IR capability can "see" a ice crack from its beginning to its end point, the thermal camera will now be used to observe other ice shelves in Antarctica for new cracks. It is an essential tool for helping to track ice dynamics as the climate warms at the southern pole. 




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