February 11 marked the two-year anniversary of the launch of NASA’s Landsat 8 satellite, an event that signaled the continuation of an Earth observation project that began in the early 1970s. To celebrate the occasion, the team has released a vast composite image that stretches unbroken from Sweden to British Columbia.
The images were taken using the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 back on 2014’s summer solstice – June 21, 2014 – a point at which the Sun doesn’t duck below the Arctic horizon for more than 24 hours. Collecting the images at that point in the year allowed the satellite to capture the region’s ice in various stages of melting.
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The entire flyover stretches for a spectacular 6,800 km (4,200 miles), with a width of 200 km (120 miles). It begins in Finland and Sweden, crosses Greenland, North America and Canada’s Nunavut and Northwest Territories, concluding off the shore of British Columbia.
As the mosaic was captured in a single pass, some of the resulting images are obscured by cloud – something we’re not used to seeing in Landsat releases, which are generally selected for their clear views of the ground below.
There are many spectacular sights over the lengthy Arctic journey, including North Greenland’s Elephant Foot Glacier, Canada’s Ellesmere Island glaciers, the sea ice in the Amundsen Gulf and chains of lakes in the Northwest Territories, all of which are pictured above.
The Arctic flyover is actually the second such mosaic released by NASA since Landsat 8 began transmitting data back home. In May 2013, the satellite captured a similar swathe of land stretching from northern Russia to South Africa.
Check out the video below for a look at the stunning Arctic flyover.