The History of the Blue Marble

In 1972, from a distance of about 28,000 miles, the crew of Apollo 17 took one of the most famous photographs ever taken of the Earth. This image became known as the ‘Blue Marble,’ for obvious reasons.

In 2000, NASA data visualizers compiled an image of the western hemisphere using data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration‘s (NOAA) Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer and NASA‘s Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor.

In 2002, NASA produced an update Blue Marble, the most detailed true-color image of the Earth’s surface ever produced. Using data from NASA’s Terra satellite, scientists and data visualizers stitched together four months of observations of the land surface, coastal oceans, sea ice, and clouds into a seamless, photo-like mosaic of every square mile of our planet.

In October 2005, the creators of the Blue Marble released a new version of the spectacular image collection that provides a full year’s worth of monthly observations with twice the level of detail as the original.

From 2007 the Blue Marble has been the iPhone’s default screen, which means that to date 100 million+ iPhone users across the world have the Blue Marble at their fingertips.

In 2010 Blue Marble was updated using data from NASA‘s Terra satellite. NASA released a series of satellite-based composite photos taken from June to September 2001. According to NASA, the ‘Blue Marble’ series of images are the “most detailed true-color images of the entire Earth to date.”

In January 2012, NASA released an updated Blue Marble image, which, according to them, is the “most amazing, highest resolution image of Earth ever.”

The original Blue Marble image had a resolution of 2048 x 2048 and was made combining different images.  But Blue Marble 2012 uses the latest data from NASA‘s newest Earth-observing satellite: Suomi Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) satellite. The image was made from several passes taken on January 4, 2012 using the satellite’s Visible Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite instrument (VIIRS).

This week NASA released an image of the other half of the planet. This image looks at the Eastern hemisphere and is a composite of six separate orbits taken on January 23, 2012 by the Suomi NPP satellite.

You can download the Blue Marble at a whooping 8000 x 8000 pixels, or at a more reasonable and usable 1024 x 1024 for all your tablet, phone and computer background needs.



  1. Pingback: The 121-megapixel image of Earth « Kurtis J Garbutt

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