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Frozen wave

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There has been much debate in the blogosphere about this amazing picture – and the others below. It's looks like a giant frozen waterfall, or even (as some have suggested) a tsunami frozen into place just as it hit the ground. As cool as that sounds, it's none of those things. It is in fact blue ice. No, not that stuff that leaks out of aircraft…

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The photographs were taken by Tony Travouillon, a Caltech research scientist, in Antarctica. He studies 'atmospheric turbulence and its repercussion for astronomy, image degradation, adaptive optics and interferometry'. I'm not sure exactly what that means, but clearly he gets to travel to amazing far-flung places. He also takes great pictures. 

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Now back to blue ice… It's created as ice is compressed and trapped air bubbles are squeezed out. It looks blue because, as the light passes through it, red light is absorbed and blue light is transmitted back out (see this article at Alaska Science Forum for more details). So basically, these are giant ice blocks, squeezed and compressed over the years – a bit like glaciers but not quite as old. RM

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Images: Tony Travouillon

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