It's a fascinating phenomenon that so many people who will never have the chance to float out there in the vastness of space know exactly what our planet looks like from afar. A lot of this is thanks to the iconic 1972 Apollo 17 photo known as the Blue Marble. It was taken from a distance of 28,000 miles away from the planet. Compare that with the 1 million miles away a NASA satellite was located when it took a brand new image of Earth.
On Monday, NASA released the the Deep Space Climate Observatory (Dscovr) satellite's first image of the sunlit side of the Earth. It was taken on July 6. The compelling photo is a combination of three different filtered images taken by the satellite's Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC).
The photo offers a new look at the familiar swirl of white clouds over a backdrop of blue. Tiny bright spots of turquoise seas emerge near the center. Brown land masses peek through the cover.
"The high quality of the EPIC images exceeded all of our expectations in resolution," said Dscovr project scientist Adam Szabo. "The images clearly show desert sand structures, river systems and complex cloud patterns. There will be a huge wealth of new data for scientists to explore."
Dscovr is a joint project from NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the US Air Force. It launched in February of this year on a mission to monitor solar winds. Keeping tabs on space weather helps scientists issue accurate warnings ahead of solar storms that can potentially disrupt telecommunications or power infrastructure.
The satellite's sideline in taking dazzling photos of our planet will give the denizens of Earth plenty of new images to pore over, putting our little place in the galaxy into perspective. NASA expects to launch a dedicated webpage to house and highlight these images by September.