Updated: Friday, 28 May 2010, 6:11 PM CDT
Published : Friday, 28 May 2010, 4:18 PM CDT
AUSTIN (KXAN) - A picture is worth a thousand words, especially when its shot in outer space and immediately sent to cleanup crews in the Gulf of Mexico, who continue to battle the BP oil spil.
The Center for Space Research in North Austin is playing a vital role in sending those images along without delay. The center's three rooftop antennas receive regular photos from the 14 American and international satellites passing over the Gulf. They are passed along in essentially real time to the 30 agencies working on Gulf relief from the oil slick.
That is three hours faster than even NASA can do it. Satellite specialist Gordon Wells noted."These images are critical because a lot of the operational plans are based upon receiving these early images we get by direct broadcast."
The images now show a slick of thick oil covering 6,000 square miles. The total slick is 20,000 square miles, still some 200 miles away from the Texas coast.
The center is also working to predict where the oil will go. Combining satellite pictures with a complex computer calculation that considers wind, weather and tide data, the scientist hope to have a good estimate of where the slick will inivade the coast and its delicate marshlands. That iinformation is good for 24 to 72 hours.
"What they can do with that is place their booms, relocate their personnel, if they have a 72-hour window of opportunity," said Professor Clint Dawson.
Those satellites pass over approximately every 90 minutes and transmit their pictures during a 12-minute window. Cloud cover is their only enemy.