NASA scientists created the two new ‘Blue Marble‘ images from data acquired by a new instrument that’s aboard the Earth-observing satellite Suomi NPP, the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS). Credit: NASA/NOAA
The Suomi NPP satellite is in a polar orbit around Earth at an altitude of 512 miles (about 824 kilometers), but the perspective of the new Eastern hemisphere ‘Blue Marble’ is from 7,918 miles (about 12,743 kilometers). NASA scientist Norman Kuring managed to ‘step back’ from Earth to get the big picture by combining data from six different orbits of the Suomi NPP satellite. Or putting it a different way, the satellite flew above this area of Earth six times over an eight hour time period. Norman took those six sets of data and combined them into one image.
The new image is a composite of six separate orbits taken on Jan. 23, 2012 by the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite. Both of these new ‘Blue Marble’ images are images taken by a new instrument flying aboard Suomi NPP, the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS).
Compiled by NASA Goddard scientist Norman Kuring, this image has the perspective of a viewer looking down from 7,918 miles (about 12,742 kilometers) above the Earth’s surface from a viewpoint of 10 degrees South by 45 degrees East. The four vertical lines of ‘haze’ visible in this image shows the reflection of sunlight off the ocean, or ‘glint,’ that VIIRS captured as it orbited the globe. Suomi NPP is the result of a partnership between NASA, NOAA and the Department of Defense.
Using a basketball you can get a good idea of how far away the Suomi NPP satellite is from Earth. Take a basketball that has a diameter of 10 inches (about 25 centimeters) and say that’s ‘Earth.’ (For the record, Earth has a diameter of about 7,926 miles (about 12,756 kilometers)).
So to get the same view of Earth as the VIIRS instrument aboard the Suomi NPP satellite, hold the basketball five-eighth of an inch (about one-and-a-half centimeters) away from your face.
The actual swath width of the Earth’s surface covered by each pass of VIIRS as the satellite orbits the Earth is about 1,865 miles (about 3,001 kilometers). On the basketball that’s about two and one-third inches (about six centimeters).