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Satellite Views Double Known Emperor Penguin Population April 20, 2012
Emperor penguins by land and space
Top: Close-up of emperor penguin colony in Antarctica. Bottom: Another colony as seen from space.
A new satellite-based census of Antarctica’s emperor penguin population reveals there are roughly twice the number of the iconic birds than previously thought.

Studying wildlife or any other aspect of Antarctica on the ground is challenging since humans can basically work in the frigid environment only about three months each year.

But by combining several kinds of high-definition satellite images and comparing them with the limited ground-based observations, U.S. and British researchers were able find out how to differentiate between shadows, penguins and even their plentiful poop.

That technique uncovered seven previously undiscovered colonies and revealed almost 600,000 penguins living in the Antarctic environment.

Results of the study were published in the journal PLoS One.

Photos: Top: British Antarctic Survey
Bottom: DigitalGlobe