2.8 miles of ice. That’s all that is keeping a 6,000 square kilometer size chunk of ice attached to Antarctica. That’s bigger than the surface area of the Great Salt Lake in Utah.

This massive chunk of ice could snap off in one piece, or many. Scientists won’t know until it happens. The latest imagery shows the break branching off.

7/12/2017 UPDATE: The iceberg has officially broken away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica. It measures 5,800 square kilometers and tips the scale at a trillion tons. According to Project MIDAS, the iceberg will have no immediate impact on sea level because it was already floating before it broke off. The calving did take a more than 12% bite out of the Larsen C Ice Shelf area and changed the Antarctic Peninsula forever.

Original article (published 7/7/12) continues.

Speaking of imagery, scientists aren’t using visible satellite imagery to keep tabs of this new iceberg right now. It’s winter in the southern hemisphere now, which means Antarctica isn’t seeing as much sun these days. Plus, cloud cover is often a big problem in Antarctica.

This is where the Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission comes in. A two-satellite constellation designed to keep constant tabs on all of Earth. From Antarctic sea ice observations to changes in volcanic activity to monitoring shipping lanes. All-day, all-night, no matter the weather.

The satellites’ radar instrument lets it pierce through the darkness and any cloud cover above the iceberg. Here’s a short clip showing how much this crack in the ice has grown over the past year. You can see how it goes from a clean break into a branching break right at the end.

Here’s a video with a brief overview of the Sentinel 1’s mission.

ESA’s CryoSat mission also gives us a good idea of what we can expect once the iceberg completes its break. “Using information from CryoSat, we have mapped the elevation of the ice above the ocean and worked out that the eventual iceberg will be about 190 m thick and contain about 1155 cubic kilometers of ice,” says Noel Gourmelen from the University of Edinburgh. Noel adds, “We have also estimated that the depth below sea level could be as much as 210 m.”

Ocean currents could drag this new iceberg north and maybe as far as the Falkland Islands off the coast of South America. If it does make it that far, it could be a headache for ships traveling through the Drake Passage (right off the southern coast of South America).

Keep an eye on the Project MIDAS Twitter account for more about the almost-formed iceberg. The research project studies how melting affects the Larsen C ice shelf.

When I’m not playing Rocket League (best game ever), you can find me writing about all things games, space and more. You can reach me at alex@newsledge.com

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