A new “Blue Marble” image, patterned after one of the most famous and reproduced photos of all time, a 1972 photo from Apollo 17, is the first fully illuminated snapshot of Earth captured by the DSCOVR satellite, a joint NASA, NOAA and U.S. Air Force mission almost two decades in the making.
“This first DSCOVR image of our planet demonstrates the unique and important benefits of Earth observation from space,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “As a former astronaut who’s been privileged to view the Earth from orbit, I want everyone to be able to see and appreciate our planet as an integrated, interacting system.”
After launching in February 2015 from a SpaceX Falcon rocket, DSCOVR spent months speeding away from Earth before reaching its final orbit position in June 2015 at Lagrange point 1 (L1), about 1 million miles away from Earth, where the gravitational forces from the Earth and sun are equal.
The DSCOVR mission serves several important purposes, including providing scientific data on heat and radiation fluxes across Earth’s atmosphere, and maintaining the nation’s ability to provide timely alerts and forecasts for space-weather events, which can disrupt telecommunications capabilities, power grids, GPS applications, and other systems vital to national and local economies.
“DSCOVR will be a point of early warning whenever it detects a surge of energy that could trigger a geomagnetic storm destined for Earth,” said Stephen Volz, assistant administrator for the NOAA Satellite and Information Service. “According to the National Academies of Sciences, a major solar storm has the potential to cost upwards of $2 trillion, disrupting telecommunications, GPS systems, and the energy grid.”
And with its Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC), DSCOVR will capture and transmit full images of Earth every few hours. The information gathered by EPIC will help examine a range of Earth properties, such as ozone and aerosol levels, cloud coverage, and vegetation density, supporting a number of climate-science applications.
“The images clearly show desert sand structures, river systems and complex cloud patterns,” noted Adam Szabo, DSCOVR project scientist. “There will be a huge wealth of new data for scientists to explore.”
NASA will make all the data, data products and images collected by DSCOVR freely available to the public, including the new “Blue Marble” images.
“In addition to providing useful data to scientists and researchers, these images will remind all of us that we live on a planet, in a solar system, in a universe,” wrote Astronaut Scott Kelly aboard the International Space Station. “And that we are not just Americans, but citizens of Earth.”