By Phil Plait | August 27, 2009 7:30 am

Holy. Haleakala.

I need not explain what planet that is. Click to massively embiggen.

It’s the first full-disk image of the Earth from the GOES 14 satellite, launched in June of 2009. The image was taken on July 27, from a distance of about 36,000 km (22,000 miles). It’s a visible light image, so pretty much what you get is what you see. The resolution of the data is about 1 km (0.6 miles). Wow.

The GOES satellites (there are three others flying at the moment) track dangerous weather such as hurricanes, and can save millions of dollars and hundreds of lives. They are run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and are a great example of how space exploration and your tax dollars can be put to good use.

And man, it makes a very fine picture too, doesn’t it? There’s no place like home.

Tip o’ the rain hat to Fark.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: NASA, Pretty pictures, Science

Comments (76)

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  1. GQ

    That is gorgeous!

  2. Gareth

    It’s fake! The earth is flat! Everyone knows that.

  3. No it is an oblate spheroid, but we live on the inside. Everybody but the http://www.alaska.net/~clund/e_djublonskopf/Flatearthsociety.htm knows that.

  4. The Man Version

    Huh. Sunny in Vegas that day. What are the odds?

  5. David

    Does the satellite take images of the night side? It would be interesting to see real time light pollution.

  6. Seamus

    I am wondering if you can see any signs of humanity in the picture. There are some very linear clouds that could be contrails south west of California. I didn’t see anything else undoubtadly human in origin.

  7. llewelly

    I had no idea there was an alien grey planet so close.

  8. CGM3

    So much fuss over an unremarkable blue planet at the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Milky Way galaxy. :)

  9. Nigel Depledge
  10. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Wow. The estate value must go up with that type of ad material.

    pretty much what you get is what you see

    I just did what you saw there. 😉

  11. Nigel Depledge

    @ CGM3 –
    I’ll bet the inhabitants of that planet are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches – no, erm, try iPhones – are a pretty neat idea.

  12. Marcello

    Might be a silly question…
    But why .gif?


  13. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    CGM3, yeah. And I hear the inhabitants, most of which is said to be bacteria btw, call it Dirt or Earth or something funky like that. Not your typical vacation spot, I guess.

  14. Brian S.


    The GOES are geostationary, so they’ll get night pictures when nighttime comes around. You can see the archives at http://www.goes.noaa.gov/

  15. It’s a picture of 1926 Earth!

  16. Sebastian

    Am I right to assume that this is only the second full-disc image *ever* taken? The only prior one was the famous “Blue Marble” picture taken by Apollo 17, right?

  17. Thomas in Sweden

    Nice, but it is a pity it shows the backside. 😉

  18. Keith

    Wow. That’s lovely. Shame it’s not in colour. I’d like to see one over Europe.

    @3 ntsc. I like the parody flat earth site.

  19. mjn

    “The resolution of the data is about 1 km (0.6 miles). Wow.”
    Does that mean there is an even bigger image available somewhere? This picture is only about 3000 pixels wide and the earth diameter is ~12000 km. That makes about 4 km per pixel. Or did I miss something?

    UPDATE: I found the superhigh res images at ftp://goes.gsfc.nasa.gov/pub/goeseast/fulldisk/fullres/vis/ about 60MB each.

    And Sebastian: No, GOES publishes many full disc images every day (I know now).

  20. You forgot to mention, dear author, that the GOES satellites also monitor important Space Weather properties, such as radiation belt fluxes. Tsk, tsk!
    Great picture. It blows my mind that the resolution is 1 Km…

  21. Chris

    Looks like a reflection of the sun near Columbia, or it caught a nuclear blast going off OR the satellite uses the world’s largest flash. I’ll take the sun for $500, alex.

  22. Sir Eccles

    Pfft, can’t even see the landing sites :-)

  23. Lars

    @Sebastian. As far as I know there are different (weather) satellites that capture the full earth full time. One different example would be EUMETSAT that captures Europe and Africa: http://www.eumetsat.int/ (latest images, including full disc images can be found at http://oiswww.eumetsat.org/IPPS/html/latestImages.html).

  24. jimspice

    <blockquote?It’s a visible light image…

    What, the flash didn’t work?

  25. Brian

    @18: I think the Gulf of Panama forgot to take off its glasses before the picture was snapped. Next time they just need to use the redeye filter.

  26. Darth Curt

    I agree with Gareth. Totally faked. If it were actually in space you’d see stars! Duh!


    (Seriously though, fantastic picture of our little blue green marble.)

  27. Vern

    I have wonderful memories of my time there. I do suggest you go.

  28. JD

    Too bad its not in color. Would have made this pic spectacular.

  29. Rebecca

    Are those bright spots snow-capped mountains in Ecuador? but what light are they reflecting?

  30. Brown

    I can see my house from here!

  31. Looks mostly harmless to me…

  32. Trucker Doug

    Nice to see it caught our California fog hugging the coast. That flash near Columbia? Obviously Dr. Manhattan taking out a drug smuggler.

  33. Of course, when this picture was taken, everyone on that side of the planet happened to blink all at once.

  34. “I need not explain what planet that is”. Please explain. is that Galifrey?

  35. pontoppi

    You can see the completely cloudless Atacama desert, on the west coast of South America. The cloud layer over the ocean just to the west is being held low by an inversion layer and prevented by covering the land by the Andes mountains. The weather is always just like that there, and that’s one reason that place is littered with telescopes. You can almost see all the astronomers there catching ZZZs on this short winter day (with looooong winter nights).

  36. Suraj

    The flash worked… that’s why you see the glare NW of Colombia 😛

    I wish it were in color though.

  37. This picture makes her look fat.

  38. Okay, I’ll bite.

    If it’s a visible-light image, why is it not in color?

  39. Calebot

    That is so cromulent.

  40. TexLex

    > I am wondering if you can see any signs of humanity in the picture. There are some very linear clouds that could be contrails south west of California.

    The linear clouds are probably caused by the exhaust from surface ships, strangely enough. And yes, those are the only anthropogenic features I’ve been able to spot.


  41. WJM

    Is that Nebulon 7?

  42. Katylee

    It looks exactly like my colonoscopy CD.

  43. WJM

    It’s a picture of 1926 Earth!

    Yeah, but after they invented colour in the 1960s, shouldn’t it have changed? Or is this a colour image of the B&W earth?

  44. WJM

    The glare of the flash is a rookie mistake. They really should learn to work with available light.

  45. Shandooga

    “Embiggen” is not a cromulent word.

  46. Dragynne

    “Click to massively embiggen. ”

    Wot !?!?! iz u a lolcat on teh side, cuz Eye Luvz U!

    ROLF at Thomas in Sweden – get *off* the backside, lol!

  47. mad

    That is a nice place to visit but i would not want to live there.

  48. James

    We’re back to black and white again? Fail.

  49. Michael

    So… the earth looks black and white from orbit?

  50. Josh

    Thank you and well done to my former coworkers at ITT! And all the smart people at Boeing and NASA/NOAA.

    This image, and the huge amounts of weather related data that GOES produces, is the result of years of hard work from thousands of very intelligent and dedicated people.

  51. Hey, what are the bright white spots near Panama? One in particular is fairly big. If you squint your eyes, it’s quite a bit brighter than anything else.

    I’m guessing a lens artifact?

    Edit: Guess lots of other people noticed too. Can haz propur expluhnashun?

  52. Synopsis

    That’s a brilliant picture. I love how the clouds follow the coastlines and landscape features.

  53. sydbloom

    that big bright blotchy spot with all the crap flying around in the middle is my fault..sorry but it was a helluvanight! And “to massively embiggin” has just been added to my most phavoratist phun phrase phile!

  54. yeah i guess it’s cool, if you’re into that kind of thing – you know living on a planet and all…

  55. MadScientist

    The best thing is that anyone can set up a GOES receiver and show people the latest images. :) Well, if you’re an ubergeek anyway.

  56. cmflyer

    The big picture is nice, but I’ve seen full-disk images from goes-11 equally as large. They are withholding the really big 1 km images. I love browsing these images, and making quicktime movies of sequential images downloadable at http://rsd.gsfc.nasa.gov/goes/

  57. Papa Surf

    Ah yes, the ever-present summer fog bank off California that thankfully backed off in time for my star-party.

    Like other have mentioned, I would love to see this in color. In fact, I’d pay for a cable channel of a real-time, geosynchronous, orbital view of earth. That would be cool!

  58. Avatar28

    Amen to that, Papa Smurf. It would have to be hi-def though.

  59. “the ever-present summer fog bank off California”

    Boo-hoo, tough price to pay for fantastic weather. Okay, so I’m in the perpetually grey Ohio, so I may be a bit jealous that you see any sky at all for more than 60 days a year :(

  60. Alan

    You have a good eye as I was not able to see Haleakala.

    Oh and it is only holy to the ancient Hawaiians.

  61. charles kafka

    black and white, and near infra-red. to make the clouds stand out. awesome picture. thanks for the post, and totally love the comments. from 22,000 miles up, and even at 1000 miles up, there are no signs of life. (except corral reefs which could have a natural explanation). and anyway, such an oxygen rich atmosphere is a deadly corrosive, and would eat through all constructs, in time, and as we know life cannot survive in such environments.

  62. rohit

    >>It’s a visible light image, so pretty much what you get is what you see.

    But why is it black and white?!

  63. balow

    Looks so smooth, just like the billiard ball article.

  64. Buzz Parsec

    I think you can see the Salton Sea, which is man-made. (They were attempting to steal the Colorado River and divert it to LA, but it broke out of the canal and flooded a depression along the San Andreas fault, IIRC. BTW, remember, you read this on the Internet, so it must be true!)

  65. Nigel Depledge

    Shadowfax (38) said:

    Okay, I’ll bite.

    If it’s a visible-light image, why is it not in color?

    Almost certainly because it is only one image.

    The CCD is not like the CCD in a digital camera (that has three detectors in each pixel). It is sensitive to visible light, but probably does not record how much is red, how much green and how much blue. So, when the data are converted into an image, you get a monochromatic image. To compose a colour image, they would need to combine three pictures, each taken through a different filter.

  66. Peter B

    Brock asked: “Hey, what are the bright white spots near Panama? One in particular is fairly big. If you squint your eyes, it’s quite a bit brighter than anything else. I’m guessing a lens artifact? Edit: Guess lots of other people noticed too. Can haz propur expluhnashun?”

    I’m going to guess it’s a reflection of the Sun off the ocean.

    After all, this is a photo of the Full Earth. That means the satellite must be very close to a direct line between the Earth and the Sun. That in turn means the Sun will reflect off the Earth (if there’s water in line), and that point of reflection will be close to the centre of the Earth – not right at the centre because it’s not a perfectly Full Earth.

  67. ThatGuyRightThere

    Cool story bro.

  68. The earth looks like one giant cookie!
    Does the GOES satellite take black and white photos only?

  69. Bill Nettles

    You can also get European/African shots from METEOSAT, Indian Ocean shots, MTSAT (Asian/Australian) shots by chasing links through the NWS website. Click on HURRICANES on the left menu, then click on Satellite/Radar on the left menu, then click on GOES East-West Full Disk on the left menu. They will list the above links. So you can see what the weather is doing globally, everyday.

  70. Macrino

    It’s huge and marvelous

  71. AJ

    “It’s the first full-disk image of the Earth…”

    Wha’? It’s not a computer disk. It’s showing a disc.


    Or is this another British/American spelling difference?

    Anyway… I like the picture

  72. KIlroy

    Another Picture.
    In Aeons to come, people will wonder what was on the Other Side of the Globe to the American Continent, because almost every photo has the Good Ole USA basking Centre-photo.

  73. Gunther

    And of course it depicts America (north and sout, at least)


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