Time-Lapse Satellite View of Growing Oil Spill

Article written: 27 May , 2010
Updated: 26 Apr , 2016
by
Video

We’ve featured many aerial satellite images of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, here on Universe Today, but this time-lapse video puts them all together. The video reveals a space-based view beginning on April 12 before the accident, then after the April 20 explosion, with the burning oil rig. Later, the ensuing oil spill is captured through May 24. Two NASA satellites are constantly capturing images Earth, focusing on particular areas of interest, the Terra and Aqua satellites which both have the MODIS instrument (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer.) The oil slick appears grayish-beige in the image and changes due to changing weather, currents, and use of oil dispersing chemicals.

The latest word on the “top kill” effort to stop the gushing oil well is that it has seen initial success.

Yesterday, BP began pumping heavy mud into the leaking well, and currently, no oil is seen coming from the well, only the mud. According to MSNBC, engineers will not know until at least Thursday afternoon whether this attempt to stop the leak is having some success.

If the risky procedure stops the flow, BP would then inject cement into the well to seal it. The top kill has worked above ground but has never before been tried 5,000 feet beneath the sea. BP pegged its chance of success at 60 to 70 percent.

You can watch a live video feed of the underwater well at MSNBC.

The images in the time-lapse video times series were selected that show the spill most clearly. The full image archive is available at the MODIS Rapid Response webpage.

NASA also has a webpage with more information about the oil spill

NASA’s Earth Observatory Natural Hazards Web page has a gallery of the images, and more information, too.

Other links: The Boston Globe’s Big Picture has some images of the devastation from the oil reaching the Louisiana coast.

And this oil leak is now the worst in history (ABC News).

Nancy Atkinson is currently Universe Today’s Contributing Editor. Previously she served as UT’s Senior Editor and lead writer, and has worked with Astronomy Cast and 365 Days of Astronomy. Nancy is the author of the new book “Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos.” She is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.



1 Response

  1. Member
    Aqua says

    Sadness, grief and disbelief, my heart is broken. No doubt next we’ll hear that the dispersant BP insisted on using has worsened the effects on sea life, especially the micro-organisms… even destroying the base of the food chain there? AND I’ll wager that other oil rigs USED this opportunity to dump who knows what hazardous materials while attention is diverted elsewhere? I wouldn’t put it past them….ACK!

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