Sky Image at Bonneville
As part of the calibration of ICESat, scientists and engineers from the Center for Space Research at the University of Texas at Austin photographed ICESat laser pulses in the sky and on the ground at Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah on Tuesday September 30, 2003. The series of near-circular green spots in the sky picture are caused by the green-laser pulses from GLAS illuminating thin clouds or aerosols in the atmosphere. The spots, captured in an 8-second camera exposure, are separated by about 170 meters and by less than 3 hundredths of a second. In a clear sky, the laser light from the satellite would appear as a bright green star. The white streak parallel to the green spots is from lights on an aircraft used to photograph both the infrared and green laser spots on the ground. The small white spots are stars. Credit: NASA/University of Texas
Byrd Glacier, shown in a radar image from RADARSAT -1 (top), is the largest outlet glacier draining ice from the East Antarctic Ice Sheet through the Trans-Antarctic Mountains into the Ross Ice Shelf. The ice sheet is grounded on bedrock and the ice shelf is floating on the ocean. Two ICESat profiles across the glacier show details of the troughs formed on the sides of the glacier as it plows into the ice shelf. The differences between the elevations and widths of the glacier at the inner (red) profile and the outer (black) profile show how the glacier thins and spreads as it merges with the ice shelf. With time, ICESat’s measurements of small changes in the elevations of the ice sheets, outlet glaciers, and ice shelves will provide information on whether the rate of ice discharge into the ocean is increasing or decreasing and thus influencing sea level. Credit: NASA
NASA’s Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) has resumed measurements of the Earth’s polar ice sheets, clouds, mountains and forests with the second of its three lasers. Crisscrossing the globe at nearly 17,000 miles per hour, this new space mission is providing data with unprecedented accuracy on the critical third dimension of the Earth, its vertical characteristics.
"The first set of laser measurements is revealing features of the polar ice sheets with details never seen before, and is detecting dust storms, cloud heights, tree heights and smoke from forest fires in new and exciting ways," said Jay Zwally, ICESat Project Scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
The principal mission of ICESat is to measure the surface elevation of the large ice sheets covering Antarctica and Greenland. Measurements of elevation-change over time will show whether the ice sheets are melting or growing as the Earth’s climate undergoes natural and human-induced changes.
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