NASA's long-running aerial survey monitoring changes in polar ice is currently flying over Antarctica, gathering measurements of land and sea ice. The data it gathers will be compared to measurements from the newly orbiting ICESat-2, a satellite with the most advanced laser altimeter NASA has ever launched, while the images captured provide a breathtaking look in and around the frozen continent.

Operation IceBridge kicked off in 2009, ostensibly as a project to maintain continuity in polar ice measurements after the first ICESat mission ended in 2009. The IceBridge mission is currently funded until 2020 but at this stage there is no indication that NASA will extend the operation now that ICESat-2 is up and running.

The latest IceBridge mission began on October 10, and is spending the following five weeks flying on paths underneath ICESat-2 in order to compare measurements and confirm the accuracy of the new satellite's data.

"This campaign is our second-to-last Antarctic campaign and it is arguably the most scientifically diverse that IceBridge has ever done," says IceBridge's project scientist, Joe MacGregor. "We're going to be revisiting classic IceBridge targets: flights along glacier flowlines that have been surveyed since 2002, long-term sea ice flights, and new targets across West Antarctica. More than two dozen of these mission designs are relevant to both IceBridge and ICESat-2."

While the measurements gathered by ICESat-2 will offer scientists a valuable continued insight into important polar ice changes, the IceBridge mission offered the added value of extra radar systems and imaging processes. As well as that, we have been treated to a vast array of spectacular photographs taken by the researchers as they journeyed over remote stretches of our polar regions.

Take a look through our gallery to see some of the latest snaps from the IceBridge Antarctica operation, as well as some highlights of other amazing sights captured on earlier missions.

View gallery - 27 images