Earth Day, from 40,000 km up

By Phil Plait | April 22, 2012 7:35 am

Today is Earth Day, and you’ll probably see a lot of blog posts telling you how to save our planet, how we’re doomed, how to lower your carbon footprint, how this, how that.

So instead of adding to all that, I’ll simply link you to the Planet Earth site, where James Drake — who created the phenomenal "What’s it feel like to fly over planet Earth" video — has put up amazingly high-res and lovely pictures of our home world, taken by the Russian weather satellite Electro-L. He also has high-res animations of the Earth, like this one showing the northern hemisphere:

The colors are more-or-less true, with the addition of an infrared layer colored orange in the images and video; that is generally vegetation you’re seeing in that color. Since Electro-L is a geostationary satellite, its orbital period is 24 hours, and it appears to hover over one spot on the planet. So to its view, the Earth doesn’t appear to rotate. Instead, the Sun looks like it spins around the Earth once per day, and in fact you can see its reflection in the water.

It’s a magnificent view, as befits our wonderful world.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Pretty pictures, Space

Comments (8)

  1. Chris

    Did they digitally remove the lights produced from the cities or were they just not put into the animation? Or something else altogether?

  2. Joseph

    One day I will see the home world from this view point. I am not sure what I will do after this point in time, but everything leading up to it will have been worth it.

  3. Michael

    It’s really impressive. But I’m surprised you cannot see any city lights at night. I always thought now we had so much “light pollution” that you would at least see the big cities in India and China.

  4. Dragonchild

    I just looked it up, but the maximum stable orbit (about half the radius of the Hill sphere) for a small satellite around Earth is about 750,000km, about twice the distance from Moon to Earth. Lagrangian out to 1.5 million km. . . which makes sense.

    That’s quite far out, but I guess it also goes to show just how dominating the Sun’s gravity is.

    @3 Michael: I’m thinking the city lights would be visible if a human was that far out. In the case of this camera, the difference in illumination between night and day is so big that to adjust for the daytime brightness the nighttime sensitivity is very low. So the lights are there, but the camera isn’t picking them up; if it did the sunrise would blind the camera.

  5. Andrew

    You know what I’d really like to see? This same movie without the infrared element!

  6. Great – but its only half the Earth, maybe a smidgin more.

    Where’s one showing the whole southern hemisphere as well?

    Oh wait, there’s one of my fave Earth videos – thanks to AggmanUK – linked to my name here for y’all to enjoy – showing in mellow and, I think, marvellous form all the planet from a whole variety of viewing points and perspectives. Hope y’all like it.

    Happy Earth Day everyone, what’s left of it. :-)

  7. Diederick

    I played it twice. I can’t get enough of the moving clouds. I have seen colour videos of the Earth from a geostationary point, but the terminator is always the only thing that moves. This add another level of realism. Even if it is way too fast for that. Excellent.


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