ISS astronaut snaps amazing photos of icebergs from space

a sea of blue with a couple dozen small white iceburgs floating scattered like dots, with one larger chunk of iceberg near the center
Expedition 70 Commander Andreas Mogensen of the European Space Agency posted this photo of giant icebergs floating in the South Atlantic on X on Dec. 3, 2023. (Image credit: ESA/Andreas Mogensen)

An astronaut just snapped stunning photos of giant icebergs floating in the South Atlantic from space. 

As Earth continues to warm, more and more chunks of ice are breaking off glaciers and ice sheets and falling into the ocean. These icebergs can be seen from the International Space Station (ISS), appearing as small white specks against the bright blue ocean water. European Space Agency astronaut Andreas Mogensen, commander of the orbiting lab's current Expedition 70, recently shared new photos of icebergs in the south Atlantic Ocean in a post on X (formerly known as Twitter). 

"I have to admit that if you had asked me before this mission, if you could see icebergs with your naked eye from space, I would have said, 'No way,'" Mogensen said in his post. "Turns out that you can! We have been seeing lots of icebergs lately in the south Atlantic. Perhaps it's their distinct geometry or perhaps the contrast in color, but they are very visible from space." 

Related: Satellites watch world's largest iceberg break away from Antarctica (photos)

Mogensen's photos capture three distinctly larger icebergs and several other fragments that have likely broken free as the icebergs traveled across the ocean. From the vantage point of the space station, the photos show some of the submerged parts of the icebergs and the ocean waves breaking around the visible part of the bergs floating on the ocean surface, other X users noted.

Another iceberg photo snapped by Mogensen and posted on X on Dec. 3, 2023.  (Image credit: ESA/Andreas Mogensen)

"Seeing the icebergs float around reminds me of climate change, with glaciers melting at a rapid pace and rising sea levels," Mogensen said in his post. "Places like the Maldives will most likely not exist in 70 years from now, having been submerged by the rising ocean." 

Rising sea levels are mostly attributed to glacial melt, as the water runoff moves from land to sea. However, as floating ice melts, it also dilutes the oceans, decreasing its density and, in turn, causing sea level to rise, too. 

Astronauts and Earth-observing satellites have spied a few notable icebergs recently. The world's largest iceberg, called A23a, has been spotted drifting beyond Antarctic waters after being grounded for more than three decades. In this case, melting has thinned the iceberg, providing the extra buoyancy it needed to lift off the ocean floor and be carried toward the South Atlantic. 

Having eyes in the sky helps scientists track the trajectory of icebergs on Earth. Artificial intelligence is also being used to quickly spot giant icebergs in satellite images, helping to monitor changes in size, shape and movement over time, as well as the impact on the environment. 

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Samantha Mathewson
Contributing Writer

Samantha Mathewson joined as an intern in the summer of 2016. She received a B.A. in Journalism and Environmental Science at the University of New Haven, in Connecticut. Previously, her work has been published in Nature World News. When not writing or reading about science, Samantha enjoys traveling to new places and taking photos! You can follow her on Twitter @Sam_Ashley13.