Blue marble 2012: Amazing high definition image of Earth

Jan 26, 2012 By Nancy Atkinson, Universe Today
A 'Blue Marble' image of the Earth taken from the VIIRS instrument aboard NASA's most recently launched Earth-observing satellite - Suomi NPP. This composite image uses a number of swaths of the Earth's surface taken on January 4, 2012. Credit: NASA/NOAA/GSFC/Suomi NPP/VIIRS/Norman Kuring.

A new high-definition version of the ‘Blue Marble’ has been taken from the newest Earth observation satellite. The just-renamed Suomi NPP satellite took numerous images on January 4, 2012 and this composite image was created from several “swaths” of Earth. It is a stunningly beautiful look at our home planet, with the largest versions of the image showing about 1.6 km (1 mile) per pixel. This Sun-synchronous Earth-orbiting satellite is 824 kilometers (512 miles) above Earth, and it gets a complete view of our planet every day. It is the first of a new generation of satellites that will observe many facets of how our Earth may be changing.

Originally launched as the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project (NPP), it was just renamed ‘Suomi NPP’ on to honor a pioneer in the use of satellites, the late Verner E. Suomi.

See below for an image showing these “swaths” from global images taken on November 24, 2011.

The Suomi NPP satellite gets a complete view of our planet every day. This image uses 20 orbital ‘swaths’ from November 24, 2011, and is the first complete global image from the VIIRS instrument. Credit: NASA Earth Observatory.

These images were taken with the The Visible/Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite or VIIRS instrument aboard Suomi NPP.

VIIRS images the surface in long wedges measuring 3,000 kilometers (1,900 miles) across. The swaths from each successive orbit overlap one another, so that at the end of the day, the sensor has a complete view of the globe. The Arctic is missing because it is too dark to view in visible light during the winter.

The NPP satellite was placed in a Sun-synchronous orbit, so its path takes the satellite over the equator at the same local (ground) time in every orbit. This orbit allows the satellite to maintain the same angle between the and the Sun so that all images have similar lighting. This consistent angle is important because it allows scientists to compare images from year to year without worrying about extreme changes in shadows and lighting.

Suomi NPP is carrying five instruments on board, and the biggest and most important instrument is VIIRS.

Unfortunately, an anomaly has been discovered in the instrument. During the checkout phase after it launched in October 2011, engineers detected a larger than expected decrease in sensor sensitivity in four of VIIRS’s near-infrared and visible channels.

An analysis revealed an anomalous material on the surface of the mirror, and further investigation on the ground discovered a non-standard process that occurred during the mirror coating as a potential source of tungsten oxide contamination on the VIIRS mirrors. Tungsten oxides could cause the surface of the mirror to darken.

This evidence suggests that the cause of the contamination is limited to the VIIRS instrument, and is not a concern for other NPP instruments. Officials from NPP said that while this problem is likely irreversible, the darkening of the VIIRS mirror caused by the contamination is expected to reach a plateau and remain at that level for the life of the mission. Although testing on this issue is continuing, NPP mission managers expect this plateau to still provide sufficient margins to allow VIIRS to meet its design requirements.

Still, the images have been spectacular so far from Suomi NPP and we look forward to more high definition views of our Blue Marble.

See the complete set of images from this spacecraft on their Flickr site.

Explore further: German named next head of European Space Agency

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA's NPP satellite acquires first VIIRS image

Nov 22, 2011

The Visible Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) onboard NASA's newest Earth-observing satellite, NPP, acquired its first measurements on Nov. 21, 2011. This high-resolution image is of a broad swath of ...

NASA's NPP satellite undergoing flight environmental testing

Feb 12, 2011

The NASA National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) Preparatory Project (NPP) climate/weather satellite is undergoing flight environmental testing at Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp's production ...

NPP satellite successfully completes thermal vac testing

May 25, 2011

The NASA National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) Preparatory Project (NPP) climate and weather satellite has successfully passed all environmental testing with the recent completion of ...

NASA'S NPP satellite acquires first ATMS measurements

Nov 10, 2011

The Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS) on board NASA's newest Earth-observing satellite, NPP, acquired its first measurements on November 8, 2011. The image shows the ATMS channel 18 data, which ...

Recommended for you

NASA considers possibilities for manned mission to Venus

3 hours ago

(Phys.org) —NASA's Systems Analysis and Concepts Directorate has issued a report outlining a possible way for humans to visit Venus, rather than Mars—by hovering in the atmosphere instead of landing on ...

User comments : 14

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

deatopmg
1.3 / 5 (9) Jan 26, 2012
so what is the resolution? (k)M/pixel?
pretty pictures but how are they useful, other than PR, vs. the myriad of other photo's of earth?
kafantaris
5 / 5 (5) Jan 26, 2012
Our earth is stunning, absolutely beautiful.
Let us pause for a moment and look at this detailed photo to appreciate the vast and dynamic treasure we have inherited.
Surely we can find a way to solve our problems as the one people that we are.
Surely we can get along enough to save our home, and the home of children and grandchildren.
nkalanaga
5 / 5 (2) Jan 26, 2012
Deatopmq: "It is a stunningly beautiful look at our home planet, with the largest versions of the image showing about 1.6 km (1 mile) per pixel."
evropej
2.7 / 5 (9) Jan 26, 2012
I can never figure out why physorg always has the smallest resolution images possible. Its like it's the 1980's and 14K baud modems were around on AOL dialup. Post some images which can fill most monitors at least, which would be worth looking at. I can't tell you how many times I click on the image to view image just to find that the full image is the same size as the article. Ok, off the soapbox.
fmfbrestel
4.3 / 5 (3) Jan 26, 2012
pretty pictures but how are they useful, other than PR, vs. the myriad of other photo's of earth?


maybe read the article before bitching, hu?

"This orbit allows the satellite to maintain the same angle between the Earth and the Sun so that all images have similar lighting. This consistent angle is important because it allows scientists to compare images from year to year without worrying about extreme changes in shadows and lighting."

Although, I dont know... maybe quoting two whole sentences is too much for you to read.
Graeme
not rated yet Jan 26, 2012
And one good feature is that it available for free use under a creative commons attribution license. The flickr image is up to 3360 pixels wide for those that want bigger, but really this should still be available in much higher resolution.
ccr5Delta32
4 / 5 (4) Jan 27, 2012
They could have put a link like this one 8000x8000 pixels
http://www.nasa.g...full.jpg

Sinister1811
1 / 5 (5) Jan 27, 2012
That's an awesome picture. It's amazing what they can do with imaging these days. I'd love to see a whole planet image with that resolution.
Cynical1
1 / 5 (1) Jan 27, 2012
Back in the 70's, Jim Capaldi wrote and sang a song called "Livin on a Marble" - And there it is...
rawa1
1 / 5 (2) Jan 27, 2012
The satellite image of North America at the picture above or Africa here just illustrates, how dry our planet actually is already. The decline of forests and spreading of deserts illustrates the climatic change clearly: most of planet surface actually lack the green vegetation.

http://www.worldm...c_sm.jpg
rawa1
1 / 5 (2) Jan 27, 2012
What the huge areas of grey sea at the Easter Pacific are supposed to mean? Are they formed with atmospheric dust of just a water pollution?

http://www.nasa.g...-710.jpg
xen_uno
1 / 5 (2) Jan 27, 2012
The top spherical pic makes the continental US appear to be 6000 to 7000 miles coast to coast (vs the 3000 is actually is). I find it odd this totally inaccurate (and rather ugly) picture is shown without mention of the significant distortion.
rsangole
5 / 5 (1) Jan 27, 2012
I can never figure out why physorg always has the smallest resolution images possible. Its like it's the 1980's and 14K baud modems were around on AOL dialup. Post some images which can fill most monitors at least, which would be worth looking at. I can't tell you how many times I click on the image to view image just to find that the full image is the same size as the article. Ok, off the soapbox.


Came here to second this! If anyone from physorg is reading, take note!!
Deathclock
2.1 / 5 (7) Jan 27, 2012
What the huge areas of grey sea at the Easter Pacific are supposed to mean? Are they formed with atmospheric dust of just a water pollution?

http://www.nasa.g...-710.jpg


Those are called clouds. If you look up in the sky you might see some...

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.