Have you ever taken a portrait of yourself and a friend holding a camera at the end of your arm? Who hasn’t these days? It has to be the numero uno category of photos seen on Facebook. NASA got into the act too, only the “arm” is a satellite and the “friend” is planet Earth.
The agency released two new pictures taken by the most recently-launched Earth observing satellite Suomi NPP that show our planet in all its green, brown and blue glory. Suomi NPP snaps images of Earth in 1,865-mile-wide swaths from a 512-mile-high orbit that takes it over the north and south poles. Each swatch is imaged through red, green and blue filters and later combined into a natural color photo. In the eastern hemisphere image, pictures from six orbits of the satellite on January 23 were compiled via special data processing to let us see Earth from nearly 8,000 miles away instead of the satellite’s strict 512 mile altitude.
Ten years ago thousands of photos snapped by the Terra satellite were stitched together with 3-D software to create monthly maps of the entire planet. To watch the changing seasonal colors and snowpack, click the photo above and you’ll be taken to a page with maps for each month. Click HERE to find out how it all was accomplished.
Since satellites orbit relatively near Earth, to get a really good view of our world, you’ve got to step way back or have a very long arm. The very first picture showing the planet in its entirely was taken on December 7, 1972 by the Apollo 17 astronauts at a distance of 28,000 miles. Nicknamed the “Blue Marble”, it’s one of the most widely-circulated photos on, well … Earth. Antarctica, Madagascar (right), the outline of Africa and Saudi Arabia all show beautifully.
Looking at Earth never gets old. It’s also refreshing. Missing in every photograph are all the borders and boundaries that can make life so confounding.