Adorable Space Census of Penguins Shows that there Are a Lot of PenguinsS

While you were flouting your civic duties by letting your census packet languish on your coffee table, Antarctica's dutiful emperor penguins waddled around the ice in a more or less organized group so that a satellite could take their picture and scientists could count them. The results of this new penguin census are pretty encouraging if you like penguins and probably horrifying if for some inexplicable reason you've developed an irrational fear after seeing Happy Feet that dancing penguins would humiliate you at a nightclub: there are more penguins than anyone, even noted penguin acolyte Morgan Freeman, could have ever imagined.

Scientists have taken candid, voyeuristic pictures of penguins from space before, but until recently they haven't had the benefit of a technique called pansharpening, which allows them to tell the difference between a real penguin and a pile of penguin poop that only looks like a penguin. The penguin-counting team examined images taken in 2009 by privately owned satellites and discovered that there were about 595,000 emperor penguins tottering around in the snow, almost double the previous 1992 estimates of 270,000 to 350,000.

While scientists are understandably delighted, they still worry about the effects global warming will have on future penguin generations. The emperor penguin is currently classified as "a species of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature," which is not too shabby for a flightless bird that only lays one egg at a time.

Emperor Penguins Counted From Space [National Geographic]