NASA baffled by odd circles at North Pole


When NASA scientists come across something they say they've never seen before, it's usually quite something.

It was taken as part of NASA's Operation IceBridge, which flies annually over both polar regions to map the region's land and sea ice.

"I don't recall seeing this sort of thing elsewhere", said scientist John Sonntag, who is a part of NASA's Operation IceBridge. On April 14, 2018, IceBridge mission scientist John Sonntag spotted something he had never seen before.

Somewhere in the Arctic sea ice, where the temperatures are typically below freezing on even the balmiest days, there is a random pattern of holes, and Nasa - the literal rocket scientists who took us to the moon and want to take us to Mars - can't figure out what they are.

Another tell-tale sign is the 'finger rafting' on the right-hand side of the image, which suggests what could be a general left-to-right motion of the ice.

As for the holes and surrounds? One of the more interesting potential explanations is that the holes are the result of animals such as seals digging their way through the ice.

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The National Snow and Ice Data Center's Walt Meier has put forward the theory that the circles could be something as simple as water from the Arctic Ocean drifting over the ice and forming the holes when seals pop up and has speculated that it could also be "a sort of drainage feature that results from when the hole is made in the ice".

The frozen sea of Arctic was found with odd circles which made the scientist more curious.

Another possibility, NASA wrote, is a natural process of convection, in which warm water gathers at particular areas under the ice, causing it to melt. I don't know about you, but I'm going with the feel-good seals.

A research plane flying over the Beaufort Sea took photos of the unusual holes in the ice which experts, and non-experts, have guessed were caused by seals, waves, aliens or submarines.

On the other hand, Chris Schuman, a glaciologist employed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, considers that the mysterious ice holes in the Arctic region were formed by the warm water which flows in the Arctic Ocean.

Other suggestions include warm springs made from groundwater flowing from the mountains, or the warmer currents of the Beaufort Sea or the nearby Mackenzie River reaching the surface. We'll just have to wait for the next flyover and hope Sonntag gets a shot of an ice hole complete with a pop-up seal catching some air.