IMAGE: GIANT CARDBOARD KANGAROO
William West  /  AFP-Getty Images
Students stand beside a giant cardboard kangaroo at Monash University's Science Centre in Melbourne, Australia, on Tuesday as a NASA satellite passes over, photographing it in a worldwide experiment.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 5/20/2008 10:26:07 AM ET 2008-05-20T14:26:07

Scientists hope a giant cardboard image of a white kangaroo, photographed from space on Tuesday, will help them better understand how the earth reflects sunlight and give them new clues about global warming's impact on ice caps.

Similar images of mock ice caps are being photographed from space at sites in the United States, France, Belgium, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Israel, Wales and Singapore as part of the experiment, involving 20 science centers and the U.S. space agency NASA. The experiment runs through May 24.

Measuring 105 feet in length, the kangaroo image was placed in the southern city of Melbourne, and was photographed by satellite to measure the Albedo effect, or the amount of sunlight reflected by the earth.

"The sun's rays come in and they either get reflected or they get absorbed," Professor Patricia Vickers-Rich, from Melbourne's Monash University, told Reuters.

"If the sun rays get absorbed, then things heat up. If they get reflected, things either stay the same or things cool off and you can have a glaciation."

Professor Vickers-Rich said melting ice caps mean less sunlight would be reflected, which could lead to more sunlight being absorbed and an increase in global temperatures.

"Ice is like our big kangaroo. The ice reflects the light, so it gets rid of a lot of the heat that comes in," she said.

Images collected during the experiment will be compared with similar images from a year earlier to help measure changes in the Albedo effect.

The other participating institutions are: Science Museum of Virginia, Richmond, Va.; Longwood University, Farmville, Va.; Lakeview Museum of Arts and Sciences, Peoria, Ill.; Technopolis, Mechelen, Belgium; Henri Bergson High School, Paris, France; Heureka, Vantaa, Finland; MadaTech, Haifa, Israel; Singapore Science Center, Singapore; Techniquest, Cardiff, Wales; Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, Dayton, Ohio; Norwegian Museum of Science & Technology, Oslo, Norway; Questacon, Canberra, Australia; Teknikens Hus, Lulea, Sweden; New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science, Albuquerque, N.M.; National Museum of Science and Technology, Stockholm, Sweden; Museo Tridentino di Scienze Naturali, Trento, Italy; Discovery Science and Outdoor Center, Ocala, Fla.

In the United States, these centers are organizing photo shoots in the days to come:

  • May 20: Boonshoft Museum (Ohio);
  • May 22:New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science;
  • May 24: Discovery Science and Outdoor Center (Fla.).

Additional information about the project is online at http://www.astc.org/iglo/.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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