Ross Sea Antarctica
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Ross Sea, Antarctica

November 25, 2011
In many places in the world, late springtime along the coast brings expectations of sandy beaches and bathing suits but, in Antarctica, coastal springtime means the return of the midnight sun and subtle thawing of winter’s snow and ice. On November 16, 2011, a sun-filled evening allowed the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite to capture this true-color image centered on the icy Ross Sea.

In the left of the image, the coast of Victoria Land, Antarctica can be seen. The rugged mountains are divided by smooth, bright-white glaciers. The largest of these, the David Glacier, is located just south of center in the Prince Albert Mountains. A long tongue of ice projects from this glacier into an area of open water; this is the Drygalski Ice Tongue, a stable sheet of ice that floats 70 kilometers (43 mi) out to sea.

Just south of the ice tongue is McMurdo Sound, where Ross Island, the home to the U.S.’s McMurdo Station and New Zealand’s Scott Base, can be seen as a bright white L shaped island with two tall peaks. To the west of Ross Island the Dry Valleys can be seen. A series of parallel valleys, they are swept free of snow by nearly relentless cold, dry winds that roll downhill towards the sea from the high altitudes of the ice-covered land. To the east of Ross Island, the smooth white ice of the Ross Ice Shelf stretches across the image.

The Ross Sea itself appears bluish-white, colored by sea ice. Open water appears inky-black and tendrils of sea ice curl into the open areas. In the northeastern corner of the image, parallel white lines of clouds float above the sea ice.

Credits: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC

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