NASA baffled by mysterious ice circles in Arctic

- A NASA aircraft has spotted something in the Arctic that it can't explain and it has "never seen before."

On April 14, NASA's Operation Ice Bridge captured images over the Beaufort Sea, 50 miles northwest of the Mackenzie River Delta. The images, taken by mission scientist John Sonntag, show unusual or "curious" circles that the government agency can't explain.

“We saw these sorta-circular features only for a few minutes today,” Sonntag wrote from the field, according to NASA. “I don’t recall seeing this sort of thing elsewhere.”

NASA released the above-image, in conjunction with the mission. Some of the oddities can be explained, such as "finger rafting" (the ridges near the top right), but the others are baffling scientists.

“It’s definitely an area of thin ice, as you can see finger rafting near the holes and the color is gray enough to indicate little snow cover,” said IceBridge project scientist Nathan Kurtz, according to NASA. “I’m not sure what kind of dynamics could lead to the semi-circle shaped features surrounding the holes. I have never seen anything like that before.”

One theory is that it could be a drainage feature, according to Walt Meier, a scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center. It has also been suggested it could be due to the way the water washes over the snow and ice as seals come up for air.

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