NASA has released the first photo of Earth in the sunlight since the Apollo 17 mission captured the very famous image in 1972.
According to the space agency, the image was taken from the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) on July 6 and shows North and Central America from 1 million miles away. DSCOVR — once known as Triana — is a satellite that was conceived in 1998 to provide continuous views of Earth, to monitor the solar wind, and to measure fluctuations in Earth’s albedo — the fraction of solar energy reflected from the Earth back into space — NASA says.
However, DSCOVR wasn’t put into use until it was refurbished and updated for launch into space in 2008, and in February 2015 the satellite was finally sent off by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
“After a journey of about 1.6 million kilometers (1 million miles) to the L1 Lagrange Point, the satellite and its Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) has returned its first view of the entire sunlit side of Earth. At L1—four times farther than the orbit of the Moon—the gravitational pull of the Sun and Earth cancel out, providing a stable orbit and a continuous view of Earth. The image above was made by combining information from EPIC’s red, green, and blue bands. (Bands are narrow regions of the electromagnetic spectrum to which a remote sensing instrument responds. When EPIC collects data, it takes a series of 10 images at different bands—from ultraviolet to near infrared.)”
This photo of Earth is the first since Apollo 17 captured the very famous Blue Marble image of our planet taken on December 7, 43-years-ago.
This photo of Earth is the view the crew of Apollo 17 had while traveling towards the moon, and shows the Mediterranean Sea area to the Antarctica south polar ice cap. This was the first time the Apollo 17 trajectory made possible to capture the south polar ice cap in a photograph.
In the stunning photo of Earth from 1972, the Southern Hemisphere is covered by clouds, but we can clearly see the southern coast of Africa. We can also see the Arabian Peninsula and the Malagasy Republic — which is now known as Madagascar. The Asian mainland is seen toward the northeast of the picture.
Since that time, astronauts have not been able to capture the entire sunlit side of Earth in one photo. NASA has put out several images, but they are mosaics put together through image processing software. NASA expects more photos of Earth to come in September.
[Image via NASA]