Blue Marble, Apollo 17, NASA
The view of Earth captured by the Apollo 17 crew on December 23, 1972. (NASA)

A Remarkable Movie

The Deep Space Climate Observatory provides a stunning new perspective.

This remarkable sequence of images, produced by a NASA camera aboard the Deep Space Climate Observatory Satellite (DSCOVR), is in its own way as impressive as the recent set of Pluto pictures returned by the New Horizons spacecraft.

The movie is noteworthy for several reasons. First, we get to see the Moon transiting the Earth. I can’t recall a movie clip that showed this before — certainly not with this level of clarity. Second, if you look closely, you’ll note that we are viewing the lunar farside — the face of the Moon invisible from Earth. Third, notice the Earth. That’s the whole Earth. So what?

Whole-disc portraits of our home world are more rare than you probably think. It’s a view that we seldom see. Most Earth images published in the last forty years have come from near-earth orbit and show only a portion of our planet. In fact, you’d have to go all the way back to 1972 and the famous “Blue Marble” photo taken by Apollo 17 astronauts for the last really good colour image. That is until now. Thanks to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) DSCOVR satellite we can look forward to many, many more.

Blue Marble - Apollo 17
This view of Earth was captured by the crew of Apollo 17 on December 23, 1972. For decades it has stood as the default image or our planet. Courtesy NASA

Launched on February 11, 2015, DSCOVR orbits our planet at distance of 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometres) at a location between Earth and the Sun called the Lagrange point 1, or L1. The satellite is equipped to monitor space weather, but also carries two NASA Earth-monitoring instruments, including the Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC), a four megapixel CCD camera and telescope that captured the images used to create this remarkable movie.