Alaska Satellite Facility
Delivering Remote Sensing Data Since 1991

A Continent Dedicated to Science

Antarctica is covered by a deep ice sheet that holds about 70 percent of the planet’s fresh water. The continent’s other features include ancient lakes deep under the ice, volcanoes, and life forms adapted to extreme conditions. Every year, a seasonal ozone hole opens up high in the atmosphere above Antarctica.

Science here has globally significant applications, in areas ranging from climate change, to conservation, to medicine. Antarctica is so important for scientific research that a 1959 international treaty made it a scientific preserve.

Antarctica Through Remote Sensing

Remote sensing has been central to detecting Antarctica's secrets. Synthetic aperture radar (SAR), used to create the majority of the imagery available in the ASF archive, is among the power tools of remote sensing and has been used extensively in mapping Antarctica. SAR bounces a microwave radar signal off the Earth's surface to detect physical properties. Unlike optical technology, SAR can "see" through darkness, clouds, and rain.

Antarctica Revealed Through SAR  See RAMP

  • First-ever detailed mapping of the entirety of Antarctica, developed from the 1997 RADARSAT-1 Antarctic Mapping Mission (RAMP). 
  • Second round of Antarctica mapping from the 2000 Modified Antarctic Mapping Mission (MAMM).
  • Third round of Antarctica mapping, focusing in particular on glacier movements and changes, from the 2004 MiniMAMM.

Images of Polar Regions  See Polar Year 07-08 (GIIPSY)

  • High-definition satellite snapshots of the polar regions, including Antarctica, during 2007-2008, for gauging past and future environmental changes in the polar ice, ocean, and land. Collected as part of the Global Inter-agency International Polar-Snapshot Year (GIIPSY).
Radar data from RADARSAT-1 reveals the velocity of Antarctica’s Lambert Glacier as it moves across the continent’s Amery ice shelf. The colors added to this image illustrate a range of movement from none (yellow) to as much as 1,200 meters a year (red). © CSA 2000; mosaic © Ohio State University.Radar data from RADARSAT-1 reveals the velocity of Antarctica’s Lambert Glacier as it moves across the continent’s Amery ice shelf. The colors added to this image illustrate a range of movement from none (yellow) to as much as 1,200 meters a year (red). © CSA 2000; mosaic © Ohio State University.
This mosaic of Antarctica enables users to view the entire continent in high resolution. © CSA 1997; mosaic © Ohio State University.This mosaic of Antarctica enables users to view the entire continent in high resolution. © CSA 1997; mosaic © Ohio State University.
Satellite radar reveals contours of giant snow dunes in East Antarctica. © CSA 1997.Satellite radar reveals contours of giant snow dunes in East Antarctica. © CSA 1997.
Antarctica's Lambert Glacier, imaged here in 1997, is the largest glacier in the world. © CSA 1997.Antarctica's Lambert Glacier, imaged here in 1997, is the largest glacier in the world. © CSA 1997.
Get SAR Data

Get SAR Data

Select and download SAR data online using Vertex.

Use the ASF API for downloading SAR data via a command line.