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24 December 2011

NASA Satellites See Santa's North Pole

(Click on image for larger view.)

All was well at the North Pole this summer, when Santa and his elves were busily making toys and taking orders for this Christmas. NASA's Terra satellite was able to piece together a number of images it took to give us a complete look at the North Pole, which is usually very difficult to see by satellites, so Santa can keep his exact location secret.

On June 30, 2011 the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra satellite made multiple passes over the Arctic from its orbit in space, capturing a true-color image of the summer lands and sea-ice near the North Pole on each pass. Individual images were then pieced together to create a large mosaic of the area, which gives a broader view that would not be possible with individual images.

In this mosaic of the Arctic, the polar ice cap appears blue-white, while the ice covering land appears bright white. The ice of Greenland, in the lower left (southwest), is especially bright. Clouds also appear bright white, and can be difficult to separate from ice in true-color images. Most of the clouds in this image appear in billowing swirls, while ice tends to be smoother. This can only be confirmed in the false-color images that were also generated by MODIS that same day.

The North Pole is found northeast off the coast of Greenland, in the middle of the ice-covered Arctic Ocean and roughly near the center of this image. This is the northernmost point on Earth. From the North Pole, all directions are south. Santa will be leaving from here on the night of the 24th and circling the globe.

Credit: NASA/GSFC/Jeff Schmaltz/MODIS Land Rapid Response Team