PIA23782: UAVSAR Oil Slicks
 Target Name:  Earth
 Is a satellite of:  Sol (our sun)
 Instrument:  UAVSAR
 Product Size:  3300 x 2550 pixels (w x h)
 Produced By:  JPL
 Full-Res TIFF:  PIA23782.tif (13.21 MB)
 Full-Res JPEG:  PIA23782.jpg (2.027 MB)

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An oil spill off the Southern California coast – first reported to the U.S. Coast Guard on Oct. 2, 2021 – prompted an effort by NASA's Applied Sciences Disasters Program to determine what NASA resources and capabilities could be available to support response efforts for the spill. As part of those efforts, a team from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California flew an airplane equipped with an instrument known as the Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar (UAVSAR) over the spill area on Oct. 6 to corroborate the presence and location of oil slicks.

Mapping the location of oil slicks and determining how thick the oil is can also help with clean-up activities. The JPL researchers collected the UAVSAR data in support of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which regularly monitors U.S. coastal waters for potential spills.

This image shows a composite of two images taken during passes (grayscale regions) made by the UAVSAR instrument off the coast of Huntington Beach. Dark smudges off the coast in the close-up images to the right (labeled A and B) are potential oil slicks – NOAA researchers will analyze the data to look for the presence of oil. The area outlined in light green (image on the left) was identified by NOAA using satellite data as a region possibly containing oil on Oct.3, while the blue outline shows an area on Oct. 6 that could also contain oil.

Attached to the bottom of a Gulfstream-III based at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center near Palmdale, California, UAVSAR is an all-weather tool that bounces radar signals off of Earth's surface. Repeated images of the same areas, taken at different times, enable scientists to detect changes in those regions. The radar signals will reflect differently off of different surfaces, including oil and seawater. These signal variations can tell researchers about the presence of an oil slick in the ocean, and in some cases provide information about its thickness.

To learn more about UAVSAR, visit: https://uavsar.jpl.nasa.gov/

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