Friday, April 30, 2010

NASA, European Satellites Record Gulf Oil Slick

NASA's Terra image of the 'hurricane' shape oil slick Thursday.

Two NASA satellites and one from the European Space Agency are keeping the American government informed of the environmental damaged caused by a looming oil spill in the northern Gulf Of Mexico.

Explosions rocked an oil drilling platform located 55 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River on April 20, sending a crude oil slick onto the waters of the Gulf.

The Deepwater Horizon platform then sunk on April 22 causing an oil pipe below the rig to snap, forcing a larger amount of the drilled oil to pour into the waters.

In all, and estimated 700,000 gallons of marine diesel fuel is approaching the Mississippi and Alabama coastlines. Louisiana is already beginning to see the first "landfall" of patches of the crude.

In space, the properties of oil and water do mix. However here on earth, gravity plays a key role in keeping the two separate thus it's weight has carried most of it to the surface.

Satellite imagery taken on April 29 shows the oil slick in the shape of a hurricane symbol as it floats northward with the current south of Mississippi.

NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites have spent the past nine days taking images of the 94 miles long oil slick.

Terra's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer has taken several natural color images of the slick. Terra was launch in December 1999 as part of NASA's Earth observation program to study the health of the planet.

Meanwhile, Europe's Envisat recorded several images on Thursday afternoon as it passed high over the northern Gulf waters. All three satellites orbit in a low earth orbit as they collect data and pictures of the planet one orbit at a time.

ESA's Envisat photographed the slick on April 29.

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