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NASA spots perfectly rectangular icebergs in Antarctica

Geometric or tabular icebergs are a thing, and they’re kinda beautiful.

This photo, taken during an Operation IceBridge flight over the northern Antarctic Peninsula on Oct. 16, 2018, shows another relatively rectangular iceberg near the famous sharp-cornered berg, which is visible behind the plane's outboard engine. The huge, tabular iceberg A68 is visible in the distance. Photo: Jeremy Harbeck/NASA.

Key Takeaways
  • Rectangular icebergs have been spotted just off the Larsen Ice Shelf in Antarctica.
  • They’re called tabular icebergs, and are totally natural, though they don’t look like it.
  • The “alien” idea is tantalizing, but simply not real.

Photo: NASA

Totally tabular

These oddly perfect slabs are known as tabular icebergs, and they’re actually not that uncommon. They form when the edges of ice shelves break apart, and compared with the usual icebergs that most people think of, these are young and not yet deformed by wind and weather. While some have referred to them as “alien” creations, they’re not.

Photo: Jeremy Harbeck/NASA

“So, here’s the deal,” Kelly Brunt, ice scientist with the University of Maryland and NASA, told Live Science. “We get two types of icebergs: We get the type that everyone can envision in their head that sank the Titanic, and they look like prisms or triangles at the surface and you know they have a crazy subsurface. And then you have what are called ‘tabular icebergs.'”

Flight Over a Rectangular Iceberg in the Antarctic

The photo above was taken by NASA scientist Jeremy Harbeck during an October 16 research flight over the Northern Antarctica Peninsula.

One of them in the video below is 100 miles long by 30 miles wide.

And all of the images and the ones in the video below are found off the Larsen Ice Shelf, Antarctica.


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