Radarsat survey provides accurate map of Antarctica


  • Randy Showstack


Explorers of Antarctica have trudged with dog sleds, wintered in boats trapped in ice, and daringly flown across the coldest, windiest, highest, driest, and most desolate continental expanse. Their names are legendary: Ross, Scott, Amundsen, Byrd. And now add Radarsat.

Taking about 5,500 microwave images over 18 days—from September 26 through October 14—a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) on this Earth-orbiting satellite completed the first-ever, real-time and high-resolution radar survey of Antarctica last week. The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) satellite, orbiting 800 km above Antarctica, accomplished this task by performing an unusual 180° yaw, or rotational maneuver, for NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).