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NASA satellites yield Antarctic maps

Scientists using satellite data have created detailed maps of the vast snow-covered Antarctic continent. The maps reveal unprecedented views of surface features that provide clues to how and why the continent’s massive ice sheets and glaciers are changing. Researchers can now decipher the intricate history of ice movements in the just-released “Mosaic of Antarctica,” which uses images from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer onboard NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites. The map is the result of a partnership between NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.; the University of Colorado’s National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), Boulder; and the University of New Hampshire, Durham.

A second map to be released early next year will provide the topographical survey of the continent with more than 65 million points surveyed from space by the Geoscience Laser Altimeter System orbiting on NASA’s Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESat). This “digital elevation model” produced at Goddard will be distributed by NSIDC in a format compatible with the Mosaic map. The new map will be used by researchers to identify interesting areas and plan expeditions to investigate them. The Mosaic removes the terrain distortion and produces a more accurate and natural-looking view of the continent and its very subtle surface features.