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Friday, 27 January 2012


Wow, there is NO snow in the Sierra Nevada this winter!

And you couldn't see a city on that marbled bowling ball, or a forest or a highway or me here least of all.

copyright Joni Mitchell

There is an 8000 pixel version on flickr, wowza.

On another note, is South America going over to visit Africa?

You're just running that picture because it's square.


Actually, South America is barely even in the picture here. The lower right portion is where Panama connects to South America. This isn't just distorted - it's actually not accurate at all. If the earth were really like this, South America would wrap around the back leaving almost no room for Africa/Aisa/Europe/Australia.

The equator runs well south of Panama, which means this, if Panama were in the right place, would be almost a polar view, not a view of Mexico and much of the USA.

Kind of a weird composite to release without explanation.

Awwwwesome! Dang, that's one beautiful planet. - Ben Marks

It's a fisheye view, showing the kind of distortion you get when you're up too close. Unfortunately, the proper lunar vantage point is unavailable nowadays.

Two thoughts-- 1) If this kind of clear, realistic image is possible, why does my satellite TV's "Earth" channel show a current Earth image that's so poor? Like a ten-year-old cell phone cam through a door peephole, there's too much contrast and too little detail. Along with lens flares and stars inexplicably shining through the disk of the planet's night side. What's up with that?

2) This is a picture of winter? For all those of us who depend on snow for our water, this is really frightening.

@ David Dyer-Bennet: "You're just running that picture because it's square"

But I thought it was a round picture with a black frame! : )

Spherical distortion

Ha, yeah I think you're confusing the Yucatán Peninsula and Cuba for South America. Reminds me of one of my fav XKCD cartoons: http://xkcd.com/977/

I find this very odd. I'll accept certainly that NASA - funded by US tax dollars- is always going to release US-centric images. China would do the same, so no issue with that. But why the obvious distortion of geography? It's chopped off Alaska and Maine, made South America a wizened stump, and made the lower 48 look pregnant. It must also have been a deliberate decision to rotate the globe so that the North Pole appears to have moved to Winnipeg.

Perhaps this 2012 end of world / tectonic shifting really is going on? I don't have the capacity to zoom into space to check that the atlas of my youth still holds true. I have to take the word of agencies like NASA.

(Big ;) from me on that last paragraph, but some people are concerned about those issues)

David, the picture appears as it does because this is a fairly low altitude view - Suomi NPP is only 500 miles up. It's not a whole hemisphere view, it's something of a fisheye view of what you'd see if you were sitting on the bird.

"...the picture appears as it does because this is a fairly low altitude view - Suomi NPP is only 500 miles up. It's not a whole hemisphere view, it's something of a fisheye view of what you'd see if you were sitting on the bird."

Right. The "globularness" of the globe is an optical illusion, literally. That's the way I read it, anyway.


Wow, would like to see the 8000 pixel version of the earth photo. The link here sure didn't point to it.

Yes it does, albeit indirectly. Go to the NPP page --> visit mission Flickr gallery and it's the first image. Then navigate through flickr to "View all sizes."

Here's a direct link.


South America is in the extreme lower right hand edge of the picture.


Oh, good grief.... enjoy the picture for what it is - a fantastic view of the earth :)

Agreed on the "fisheye" view you guys are referencing. But I think the Blue Marble term that I've seen in several places is confusing people, because the original images that refers to WERE of a whole hemisphere.

And I've seen a few posts on line thinking that this was a whole hemisphere (i.e. the black part is outer space). The NASA site even refers to it as a "full disc" image. I'm not sure how NASA uses that term, but I think a lot of people are equating this to a whole hemisphere.

In my view, that makes it an odd presentation.

Just printed it out on Slickrock Metallic and it looks great. Thanks for the link

What I find amazing about this image of the entire planet is it is one of the few I have seen where you can clearly see the atmosphere. It is amazing how small it really is and that without it life as we know it would not exist. A stunning image! (particularly if you also view the much larger version).

Not a great shot Gursky and Google can do that better.......the Earth observer Suomi NNP is just using a wide field lens. You need more distance to make a true picture or you would have to make a composite of serveral pictures to get a more physically accurate look on things.

Greetings, Ed

Unfortunately the pic shows the unimportant part of the globe.

Good Lord guys, with all due respect - but didn't they teach you in school that the Earth is actually not flat? It's a sphere, and the image is simply a photo of it from Space, the way it is.

That's why geography appears distorted. Your typical weather satellite image in the news is rectified to correct this distortion.

Do not worry, your taxpayer dollars were spent well.

The image isn't technically distorted - if it looks odd, it's simply being looked at from too far away... the usual ultra-wide-angle difficulty.

A shot like this prefers a viewing distance that is (say) half of the image diagonal, not (say) twice that. Then one can view the Earth in the same presentation, as the way it dominated the satellite's field of view. And the photo becomes completely naturalistic (albeit, vertiginously impressive). I'd love to see it in an Imax cinema.

When complaining about the apparent distortion, please also consider that the earth is a sphere. You'll also get a "fish-eye" effect when photographing it with a rectilinear lens...

“I find this very odd. I'll accept certainly that NASA — funded by US tax dollars — is always going to release US-centric images.”

This particular photo wasn't directly funded by tax dollars (aside from powering a desktop computer that would have been running anyway) and there was no intention to slight the rest of the world. As NPP describes it, “Norman Kuring pulled this together in his personal time to showcase VIIRS. Believe me, if we had a similar image of the other side of our beautiful planet — we'd showcase it!”

Kuring's description of what he did:

I used the l2gen program written by members of the Ocean Biology Processing Group to generate Earth surface reflectances in bands M5 (662-682 nm), M4 (545-565 nm), and M2 (436-454 nm) from NOAA SDR files collected over four orbits on January 4, 2012. I then mapped the reflectances for each of the orbits to a vertical, near-sided perspective projection with the perspective point 2124 kilometers above 20 North by 100 West and composited the four orbits together into the ‘marble’ that you see.

Asked how long it took, he said:

The processing of the data that our group gets from NOAA (SDR's) into surface reflectances and the subsequent projection of the pixels took roughly half a day on my desktop Linux box. I left it running overnight but had to restart in the morning because of a software bug that caused the process to stop before it had finished completely. Once the projected orbits were complete it took a few hours to assemble them into the final image you see.

Since this was the first time I have worked with this particular type of data, there was a bit of trial and error involved in the process.

Aha! This picture proves that the world is round, but flat. It's also double sided. The Americas are on one side, and everywhere else is on the other side. All those jokes about Australia being upside down that we tell in England were only hinting at the truth! : ]

I'm not 100% sure but it looks flat to me.

The earth is FLAT?

This image is actually a composite of a day's worth of 3000km swaths, not a single image. As far as South America is concerned, it is barely visible in the lower right. As someone else stated, what appears to be South America is really Cuba and the Yucatan Penninsula. More details can be found at http://www.physorg.com/news/2012-01-blue-marble-amazing-high-definition.html.

Bellissimo! Thanks Mike

Great. I love earth ;-)

Here's a direct link to the large (!!) version:


Thanks to Gary Brown for the technical description. WSJ Photo Journal Blog has some additional information.

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