There’s a Hole in the Sky!

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Well, not the sky exactly, but definitely in the clouds!

This image, acquired by NASA’s Aqua satellite on June 5, shows an enormous oval hole in the clouds above the southern Pacific Ocean, approximately 500 miles (800 km) off the southwestern coast of Tasmania. The hole itself is several hundred miles across, and is the result of high pressure air in the upper atmosphere.

According to Rob Gutro of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, “This is a good visible example of how upper-level atmospheric features affect the lower atmosphere, because the cloud hole is right under the center of a strong area of high pressure. High pressure forces air down to the surface blocking cloud formation. In addition, the altocumulus clouds are rotating counter-clockwise around the hole, which in the southern hemisphere indicates high pressure.”

The northwestern tip of Tasmania and King Island can be seen in the upper right of the image.

The Aqua mission is a part of the NASA-centered international Earth Observing System (EOS). Launched on May 4, 2002, Aqua has six Earth-observing instruments on board, collecting a variety of global data sets about the Earth’s water cycle. Read more about Aqua here.

Jason Major

A graphic designer in Rhode Island, Jason writes about space exploration on his blog Lights In The Dark, Discovery News, and, of course, here on Universe Today. Ad astra!

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