Taken by NASA astronaut and Expedition 27 flight engineer Ron Garan, this image shows the Petermann Ice Island (PII-A) currently adrift off the coast of Labrador. The island is a chunk of ice that broke off the Petermann Glacier in Greenland in August of 2010 and has been moving slowly southward ever since. It is currently about 21 square miles (55 square km) in size – nearly the same area as Manhattan!
Garan’s original photo was posted to his Twitter feed earlier today… I cropped the full-size version, rotated it so that south is down and edited it to bring out surface details in the island. Ridges in its surface can be seen as well as many bright blue meltwater ponds.
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Overlaid on the left side is an approximate scale size of Manhattan. This thing is BIG!
PII-A is currently drifting toward Newfoundland but is unlikely to reach land… its base will run against the sea floor long before that. But it has been reported to be posing a problem for ships and offshore oil rigs. (Read more about PII-A on NASA’s Earth Observatory site here.)
When he’s not performing other duties aboard the Space Station, Ron Garan posts photos of Earth from orbit on his Twitter feed (@Astro_Ron) and also on his website FragileOasis.org, thereby sharing his unique and privileged perspective on our world. Founded by Garan, Fragile Oasis is a site that supports and publicizes many global projects supporting humanitarian and environmental missions. Visit, become a member, and you too can “learn, act, and make a difference.” After all, who better than an astronaut would know how much our world is connected, and how fragile it really is!
Image credit: NASA / Ron Garan. Edited by Jason Major.
PS: If you want an idea of how something like this would look like up close, check out this video below taken from a ship near one of the smaller pieces of the ice island!
Jason Major is a graphic designer, photo enthusiast and space blogger. Visit his website Lights in the Dark and follow him on Twitter @JPMajor or on Facebook for the most up-to-date astronomy awesomeness!