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NASA Image of the Day: The Geometric Beauty of Ice

NASA/John Sonntag/IceBridge Digital Mapping System
Ice can be stunningly beautiful and also quite varied in its appearance.

The geometric shapes are due to a phenomenon known as “finger rafting,” which occurs when two floes of thin ice collide. As a result of the collision, blocks of ice slide above and below each other in a pattern that resembles a zipper or interlocking fingers. Brine expelled from the ice forms a solution that acts as a lubricant. For finger rafting to occur, it’s critical that the ice be thin—calculations suggest no more than 8 inches, or 20 centimeters. Any thicker and the ice loses its flexibility. Without flexibility, thicker ice floes that collide can result in a big pile up known as “ridging.”

On November 14, Operation IceBridge scientist John Sonntag took this photograph of ice in the Weddell Sea, a part of the Southern Ocean off the Antarctic Peninsula.

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