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Even NASA is confused by these ice circles in the Arctic Ocean

NASA can only speculate about the mysterious ice circles in the Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean. The photo was part of NASA's Operation IceBridge, which aims to map the land and sea ice of the area. ( John Sunday | Operation IceBridge / NASA )

On April 1

7, NASA released a satellite image of an ice surface with strange holes on its monthly blog Earth Matters, asking everyone what it is.

The photo is now revealed as part of the eastern Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean. It was captured as part of NASA's Operation IceBridge, which flies over both polar regions annually to map the region's land and sea ice.

What are these circular features?

Some parts of the picture are hard to explain, though – especially the mysterious ice circles that IceBridge missionary John Sonntag has never seen.

"We saw these sorta-circular features for only a few minutes today, I can not remember seeing such things elsewhere," wrote Sonntag during the mission.

NASA has no exact explanation of what the holes could be, as it is difficult to speculate with only a photograph or satellite image. The IceBridge mission is primarily an imaging operation and is ill-equipped to jump into actual exploration. It is needless to say that she is unable to leave the area and have experts examined. So, here's NASA's best guess:

What NASA Thinks

Dartmouth College sea ice geophysicist Don Perovich thinks the sea ice in the picture is young.

"The ice is likely to be thin, soft and mushy and somewhat pliable, which can be seen from the wavy features in front of the middle amoeba." Also, there could be a left-to-right movement of the new ice, as it did in the Finger rafting is the case when two ice floes collide – on the right side of the area.

"It's definitely an area of ​​thin ice, as you can see finger rafts near the holes and the color is gray enough to show a little blanket of snow," adds Nathan Kurtz, a project scientist on the IceBridge mission.

The circles remain a mystery, and NASA even says they are hard to explain. One speculation suggests that they may not have been shaped so much, but gnawed by seals to create pockets where they can normally use to breathe. This seems more plausible when looking at similar photographs of breathing holes made by ring and harp seals.


"[I] This could be a kind of drainage feature that results from the hole in the ice" Only with a photo are the ice circles a mystery that can not be explained without deeper missions. "

Any aspiring glaciologist out there? What's your opinion about the ice circles? As always, when you have something to share, feel free to dismiss them in the comments below!

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