NASA's latest image of Earth is impossibly beautiful

Illustration for article titled NASA's latest image of Earth is impossibly beautiful

NASA has just released this mind-blowing photograph Earth, which was captured earlier this month by the Agency's most recently launched Earth-observing satellite, Suomi NPP.


And it turns out there's a very good reason NASA can call this "the most amazing high-definition picture of Earth ever taken" — this photo, gorgeous as it is, is actually too beautiful to be real. That's right: this photo is a big fat phony. Sort of.

Alright, so it's not totally fake, but technically speaking it is a composite image [click here to download the 8000 x 8000 pixel version. Yes you read that correctly — this image is HUGE]. The camera on board Suomi NPP can only photograph small sections of Earth at a time, so the image you see here is actually something of a mosaic — a patchwork piece that collects photos taken from Suomi NPP over the course of January 4, 2012 and stitches them together.

Illustration for article titled NASA's latest image of Earth is impossibly beautiful

Of course, when I say that Suomi photographs "small sections" of the Earth's surface, what I mean is that they're smaller than an absurdly hi-res photo of the entire planet; in actuality, they're still mind-numbingly enormous — like the true-color image of the Southeastern United States featured here.

[Via NASA]



Note how brown much of the North American terrain is. Perhaps the images from which this composite was rendered were taken in winter?

Also note what appears to be a large lake west of the Rockies; in the hi-res version the lake is a cobalt blue on its northern half, and a lighter green blue on the lower half in a way that brings into question the nature of the composite: the division is a perfectly straight boundary running east west. Or it's not a lake, or there is some explanation I am not aware of (I am no photography expert).