This is Our Planet From a Million Miles Away

This picture of our home planet truly is EPIC – literally! The full-globe image was acquired with NASA’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (aka EPIC; see what they did there) on board NOAA’s DSCOVR spacecraft, positioned nearly a million miles (1.5 million km) away at L1.

L1 is one of five Lagrange points that exist in space where the gravitational pull between Earth and the Sun are sort of canceled out, allowing spacecraft to be “parked” there. (Learn more about Lagrange points here.) Launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 on Feb. 11, 2015, the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) arrived at L1 on June 8 and, after a series of instrument checks, captured the image of Earth’s western hemisphere above on July 6.

The EPIC instrument has the capability to capture images in ten narrowband channels from infrared to ultraviolet; the true-color picture above was made from images acquired in red, green, and blue visible-light wavelengths.

More than just a pretty picture of our blue marble, this image will be used by the EPIC team to help calibrate the instrument to remove some of the blue atmospheric haze from subsequent images. Once the camera is fully set to begin operations daily images of our planet will be made available on a dedicated web site starting in September.

DSCOVR’s location at L1 (NOAA/NASA)

Designed to provide early warnings of potentially-disruptive geomagnetic storms resulting from solar outbursts, DSCOVR also carries Earth-observing instruments that will monitor ozone and aerosols in the atmosphere and measure the amount of energy received, reflected, and emitted by Earth – the planet’s “energy budget.

But also, from its permanent location a million miles away, DSCOVR will be able to get some truly beautiful – er, EPIC – images of our world.

DSCOVR is a joint mission between NOAA, NASA, and the U.S. Air Force. Learn more about DSCOVR here.

Source: NASA

UPDATE: President Obama liked this image so much, he decided to Tweet about it with a message of planetary conservation!

The POTUS’ Tweet about the DSCOVR image on July 20, 2015.

UPDATE 7/29/15: Here’s another view from DSCOVR on July 6, showing Europe, Africa, and the Middle East:

DSCOVR image of Earth from July 6, 2015. (NASA/NOAA)
Jason Major

A graphic designer in Rhode Island, Jason writes about space exploration on his blog Lights In The Dark, Discovery News, and, of course, here on Universe Today. Ad astra!

View Comments

  • If the Earth is this large at 1 million miles away why was it so small in pictures from the Moon at 238,000 miles away? It was the size the Moon from Earth is and that is impossible.

    • The cameras used by our astronauts at the moon were general purpose (Hasselblads modified for gloved hands IIRC) made for taking images within that cramped capsule, and each other on the moon. As such they were much wider angle. Apparently this instrument was designed specifically for this distance, so it is a kind of telephoto lens. Why incorporate more sky than necessary for the whole earth scientific purpose?

    • Your TV back then was probably 9" diagonal and your parents made you sit far away from the it to avoid radiation and now your computer screen is much larger and safer.

  • The DSCOVR mission's original name was Triana or Goresat. It was through the imputes of Al Gore that this satellite was originally conceived and built. Then came the republican congress who said, in part, "The satellite was a “multi-million-dollar screen saver” that would take money from real research, said Representative Dave Weldon, a ranking member of the House Science Committee; House majority leader Dick Armey called it a “far-out boondoggle.” and the project was shelved. Well.. after years of careful storage, it was decided to upgrade the instruments and actually fly that bus. SUWEEEET potatoes!

    That is part of the other part of the story. Politics and science are like oil and water. I prefer to drink water...

  • If you google "earth viewed from the moon" and then "earth viewed from one million miles away" you'll see a phenomenon: the earth is getting BIGGER! The moon is 245,000 miles away and the various photos, like "earthrise" show a much smaller Earth back in the 1960's and 70's. Global warming? Bah! Global ballooning is more like it!

  • I corrected the size of the Earth from the different lenses with the zoom button on my keyboard. One picture is still 238,000 miles away and one a million miles away. Nothing anywhere else compares.

    • I don't think the zoom button on your keyboard is the same as what's installed on DSCOVR.

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