Oil Slick in the Gulf of Mexico : May 24, 2010 Annotated

Sunlight illuminated the lingering oil slick off the Mississippi Delta on May 24, 2010. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this image the same day.

Oil smoothes the surface of the water, making for a slightly more precise reflection of the sun than oil-free water. As a result, the oil slick is brighter than the surrounding water where the Sun is overhead (image center) and darker than the surrounding water where the Sun is not overhead (image lower right). Tendrils of oil extend to the north and east of the main body of the slick. A small, dark plume along the edge of the slick, not far from the original location of the Deepwater Horizon rig, indicates a possible controlled burn of oil on the ocean surface.

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