VIIRS eastern hemisphere image: Behind the scenes

Feb 03, 2012
NASA scientists created the two new 'Blue Marble' images from data acquired by a new instrument that's aboard the Earth-observing satellite Suomi NPP, the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS). Credit: NASA/NOAA

(PhysOrg.com) -- The Suomi NPP satellite is in a polar orbit around Earth at an altitude of 512 miles (about 824 kilometers), but the perspective of the new Eastern hemisphere 'Blue Marble' is from 7,918 miles (about 12,743 kilometers). NASA scientist Norman Kuring managed to 'step back' from Earth to get the big picture by combining data from six different orbits of the Suomi NPP satellite. Or putting it a different way, the satellite flew above this area of Earth six times over an eight hour time period. Norman took those six sets of data and combined them into one image.

The new image is a composite of six separate orbits taken on January 23, 2012 by the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite. Both of these new 'Blue Marble' images are images taken by a new instrument flying aboard Suomi NPP, the Visible Radiometer Suite (VIIRS).

Compiled by Goddard scientist Norman Kuring, this image has the perspective of a viewer looking down from 7,918 miles (about 12,742 kilometers) above the Earth's surface from a viewpoint of 10 degrees South by 45 degrees East. The four vertical lines of 'haze' visible in this image shows the reflection of sunlight off the ocean, or 'glint,' that VIIRS captured as it orbited the globe. Suomi NPP is the result of a partnership between NASA, and the Department of Defense.

Using a basketball you can get a good idea of how far away the Suomi NPP satellite is from Earth. Take a basketball that has a diameter of 10 inches (about 25 centimeters) and say that's 'Earth.' (For the record, Earth has a diameter of about 7,926 miles (about 12,756 kilometers)).

Responding to public demand, NASA scientists created a companion image to the wildly popular 'Blue Marble' released last week (January 25, 2012). Credit: NASA/NOAA

So to get the same view of Earth as the VIIRS instrument aboard the Suomi NPP satellite, hold the basketball five-eighth of an inch (about one-and-a-half centimeters) away from your face.

The actual swath width of the Earth's surface covered by each pass of VIIRS as the orbits the Earth is about 1,865 miles (about 3,001 kilometers). On the basketball that's about two and one-third inches (about six centimeters).

For reference:

Over its lifetime the International Space Station's altitude has been between 205 miles (about 330 kilometers) and 255 miles (410 kilometers) above the Earth's surface. That brings your 'basketball Earth' closer to your face at about five-sixteenth of an inch (about point-eight centimeters) away.

The original 'Blue Marble' image is a photograph taken by the Apollo 17 astronauts as they traveled toward the moon. It was taken at a distance of about 28,000 miles (45,062 kilometers). That puts your 'basketball Earth' at over 30 inches (76 centimeters) away from your face, or roughly an arm's length away.

The moon is about 238,857 miles (384,403 kilometers) away from the Earth's surface. That puts your 'Earth basketball' about 25 feet (about 7.6 meters) away, which is roughly the distance a three-point line on a basketball court is from the basket.

According to Flickr, that Western hemisphere Blue Marble 2012 image has more than 3.1 million views as of February 1st, making it one of the all-time most viewed images on the site after only one week.

Explore further: SDO captures images of two mid-level flares

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 ...

'First light' taken by NASA's newest CERES instrument

Feb 02, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- The doors are open on NASA's Suomi NPP satellite and the newest version of the Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System (CERES) instrument is scanning Earth for the first time, helping ...

NASA launches weather-climate satellite

Oct 28, 2011

The US space agency on Friday launched a first-of-its kind satellite that will send back data on weather and climate to help forecasters predict major storms and other changes in the environment.

Space Image: Ghostly Encounter

Jun 29, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- The surface of Saturn's moon Dione is rendered in crisp detail against a hazy, ghostly Titan. Visible in this image are hints of atmospheric banding around Titan's north pole.

Recommended for you

SDO captures images of two mid-level flares

2 hours ago

The sun emitted a mid-level flare on Dec. 18, 2014, at 4:58 p.m. EST. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly, captured an image of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts ...

Why is Venus so horrible?

9 hours ago

Venus sucks. Seriously, it's the worst. The global temperature is as hot as an oven, the atmospheric pressure is 90 times Earth, and it rains sulfuric acid. Every part of the surface of Venus would kill you ...

Image: Christmas wrapping the Sentinel-3A antenna

12 hours ago

The moment a team of technicians, gowned like hospital surgeons, wraps the Sentinel-3A radar altimeter in multilayer insulation to protect it from the temperature extremes found in Earth orbit.

Video: Flying over Becquerel

12 hours ago

This latest release from the camera on ESA's Mars Express is a simulated flight over the Becquerel crater, showing large-scale deposits of sedimentary material.

Spinning up a dust devil on Mars

13 hours ago

Spinning up a dust devil in the thin air of Mars requires a stronger updraft than is needed to create a similar vortex on Earth, according to research at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).

User comments : 0

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.