November 28, 2007—The frozen features of the coldest place on Earth have come into their sharpest focus ever, thanks to recent satellite technology.
A thousand images from NASA's Landsat satellite data, taken mostly between 1999 and 2001, were pieced together to create a first true-color map with ten times greater resolution than previous images of Antarctica.
The map is so detailed it includes features that are as small as half the size of a basketball court.
In the above sample image of the region around McMurdo Station in southern Antarctica, ice shelves, mountains, and glaciers can be seen in unprecedented detail.
"This innovation is like watching high-definition TV in living color versus watching the picture on a grainy black-and-white television," Robert Bindschadler, chief scientist of the Hydrospheric and Biospheric Sciences Laboratory at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a statement.
The new map is more than a pretty picture—for one, it will help researchers plan better scientific expeditions to the remote landscape.
Scientists will also rely on the high-resolution data to study changes in land elevation and to map various rock formations.
Even the public can explore the polar region via a public-access Web portal found at http://lima.usgs.gov.
The Landsat satellite program, which has captured images of Antarctica since 1972, represents the longest continuous record of the continent.
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