The spill is on the move in the Gulf and has reached the coast. A host of government agencies -- including NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Homeland Security -- have contributed technology to help track its trajectory to try to minimize damage and contain the spill.
Floats, drifters, and gliders from the Navy were sent to the Gulf via the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ship Thomas Jefferson late last week. Researchers will use the tools to keep an eye on the Gulf's Loop Current, which potentially could spread the oil more widely in the region.
That current has become the focus of numerous monitoring efforts in the last week. NASA satellites also are monitoring that current, as is a NOAA Lockheed WP-3D Orion aircraft.
Researchers at several U.S. universities, including the University of Texas, Notre Dame, and the University of North Carolina, also are using supercomputers to apply the Advanced Circulation Model -- typically used to track hurricane trajectories -- to keep an eye on the Loop Current's effect on the spill. The NSF freed up 1 million supercomputer hours to allow them to create simulations for their work.
Efforts to clean up the spill have entered their sixth week. BP's attempt to cap the well that continues to leak oil failed over the weekend, and now the operation has moved into containment mode.
The spill occurred April 20 when an oil rig BP was leasing exploded and sank in the Gulf. Eleven people died in the explosion, and the oil spill that resulted from it has been deemed the worst disaster of its kind in U.S. history.
The Obama administration has ordered a criminal investigation into the spill. BP is trying to contain the spill by siphoning oil and gas to the surface, and won't be able to cap the leaking well until it can create relief wells, an effort that it said won't be complete until August.