Gulf Oil Spill From Space: NASA Satellite Image Shows Extent Of Spill (PHOTO)

06/09/2010 11:35 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

It's difficult to fathom the size of the ongoing Gulf oil spill, but NASA can help put things in perspective thanks to this image captured by their MODIS Rapid Response System, which was "developed to provide near realtime imagery from the MODIS instrument for users who require an immediate view of a specific phenomenon from satellites."

In other words, here's what this mess looks like from space.

The image won't tell you everything about the spill, of course. According to NASA:

Photo-like satellite images are not a perfect tool for detecting oil on the surface of water. Outside of the sunglint area (the part of the satellite image where the mirror-like reflection of the Sun is blurred into a wide, washed out strip by waves), the oil may be imperceptible against the dark background of the water. Scientists and disaster responders in the Gulf are combining photo-like satellite images and aircraft and shipboard observations with weather and ocean current models to predict the spread of oil.

Updated images are being added to NASA's website twice daily. This one from Wednesday shows the slick off the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts.

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