A new, high-definition, true-color interactive map of Antarctica
that was released in December will allow both researchers and
the public to explore the continent online in greater detail than
map, called LIMA (Landsat Image Mosaic of Antarctica), is made
up of nearly 1,100 images taken by the Landsat 7 satellite, woven
together to show the entire continent. It shows cloudless views
of Antarctica's mountains, valleys, glaciers and even the human
presence on the continent, such as the McMurdo research station.
Compared to previous mosaic maps of Antarctica, "it's like
going from grainy black-and-white ... to high-definition color
TV -- sort of a wide-screen view of the continent," said
Robert Bindschadler, a glaciologist at NASA who led the project,
which was developed with the U.S. Geological Survey.
The most recent prior map, developed from images taken by an
instrument called MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer)
aboard the Terra and Aqua satellites, had a spatial resolution
of about 250 square meters. LIMA, in contrast, has a resolution
of about 15 square meters, meaning that features half the size
of a basketball court are visible.
The mosaic also shows Antarctica in true color. Bindschadler
said when he first showed it to a panel of polar researchers,
all of whom had visited the continent many times, "their
jaws dropped. They said, 'Shoot, that's what it really looks like
flying into Antarctica.'"
Researchers will be able to use the map to study the flow of
glaciers, examine rocks and plan future research trips, Bindschadler
said. But, he added, the benefits to the public are just as great.
LIMA is available on NASA's
Web site and the U.S.
Geological Survey's Web site. Users can zoom in and out to
examine features and download images.
And the public has flocked to the sites, which are setting records
for number of hits, Bindschadler said.
"USGS has never seen that kind of response," he said.
"They had to take this offline and put it on separate servers
because it was slowing down everything else they did."