Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi, Expedition 23 flight engineer, photographed the tail end of the Mississippi Delta showing the oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico on May 4, 2010. Part of the river delta and nearby Louisiana coast appear dark in the sunglint. This phenomenon is caused by sunlight reflecting off the water surface, in a mirror-like manner, directly back towards the astronaut observer onboard the International Space Station (ISS). The sunglint improves the identification of the oil spill which is creating a different water texture (and therefore a contrast) between the smooth and rougher water of the reflective ocean surface. Other features which cause a change in surface roughness that can be seen in sunglint are wind gusts, naturally occurring oils that will be gathered by and take the form of water currents or wave patterns, and less windy areas behind islands.
Image/caption credit: NASA
View original image/caption:
More about space station science:
There’s a Flickr group about Space Station Science. Please feel welcome to join! www.flickr.com/groups/stationscience/