Antarctica is the coldest, driest and windiest place on Earth – and, during the austral summer, it is also the sunniest. Due to the tilt of the Earth’s axis in relation of the sun, the frozen land south of the Antarctic Circle receives six months of daylight in summertime, and six months of darkness in winter. The long hours of sunshine allow for excellent imagery of the region from space.
This true-color mosaic of Antarctica was created from images acquired by multiple passes of the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Terra satellite on December 16, 2013. Because Terra is in a polar orbit, it passes over each pole approximately 14 times a day, and acquires an image on each pass. To create a mosaic, the data that are closest to the center of each swath – where edge distortion is minimized – are used to create a complete view of the region.
The MODIS Rapid Response system generates complete mosaic images of Antarctica every day in austral late spring, summer and early fall. Because the light is poor in austral late fall, winter and early spring, MODIS images are not created during that period. A mosaic of Antarctica can be found for any given day at NASA’s Project Antarctica at http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/subsets/?project=antarctica.