Since the beginning of the space age more than 50 years ago, NASA, the U.S. space agency, has provided the world with spectacular images of our planet, solar system and universe.
Now, NASA has just released an amazing ‘animated gif’ (see above) that shows the moon as it moves across of the sunlit side of Earth.
The images that were used to produce the gif were taken by the Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) aboard the NASA/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR). They were taken from the satellite’s position between the sun and Earth at a distance of about 1,609,344 kilometers.
“It is surprising how much brighter Earth is than the moon,” said Adam Szabo, DSCOVR project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland in a press release. “Our planet is a truly brilliant object in dark space compared to the lunar surface.”
The key mission for the DSCOVR satellite will allow NOAA to monitor the solar wind in real-time so that the U.S. agency can provide advanced warnings of above average amounts of high-energy particles produced by the sun.
Powerful bursts of these high-energy particles can impact items such as power grids, communications systems, and satellites orbiting close to Earth.
EPIC is a four megapixel CCD (charge-coupled device) camera and telescope mounted on the DSCOVR satellite.
The device continuously keeps the fully lit Earth in its sights as our home planet rotates on its axis.
NASA says that EPIC will provide scientists with observations of Earth’s ozone, vegetation, cloud height, as well as atmospheric aerosols – tiny particles of material suspended in the atmosphere.
Each image taken by EPIC is shot through filters that cover 10 narrowband channels of the spectral band from ultraviolet to near infrared.
The ‘natural color’ pictures of Earth, according to the space agency, are produced by EPIC, with a combination of three distinct monochrome images – red, green and blue – that are taken in quick succession.
NASA says that once EPIC begins to make its regular observations, scheduled for some time next month, it will post color images to a special website.
The images, taken daily, will show different views of a rotating Earth and will be available to the public some 12 to 36 hours after EPIC sends them back to Earth.