The pale blue dot

Here’s a wonderful image of Earth from NASA’s Suomi satellite, an image you can make considerably larger by clicking on it.  But if you want the full Monty, and a fantastic screensaver, see the huge hi-resolution image here.

And be sure to take a look at Suomi’s Flickr gallery, which includes other pictures of Earth, and of the satellite’s construction and launch. Here it is in the lab:

Ah, what we hoomans are capable of!


  1. Posted January 26, 2012 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    Is it just me? Every time we see a photo of Earth from space, it’s [almost?] always showing the USA. Surely there are other [more] interesting places on Earth?

    Ok, ok, I know, NASA and all that, but surely, a decent photo of Australia would be a nice change?

    Now, having had that mini-rant, a stunning image, stunning. What a beautiful place we live in. Shame we are messing it up.😦


    • Vayaconcarne
      Posted January 26, 2012 at 10:13 am | Permalink

      Agreed. Still, an amazing image.

      • Voltaire 2
        Posted January 26, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

        Actually I always thought that most Earth images from deep space showed Asia and Africa. See the famous Apollo 17 Full Earth image, as just one example.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted January 26, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

      Here you go.

    • Diane G.
      Posted January 27, 2012 at 1:10 am | Permalink

      That shot seems to feature Mexico more than the US, IMO.

      • Posted January 27, 2012 at 4:52 am | Permalink

        Hi Diane,

        I can just make out the Yucatan through the clouds, but the rest is the bit of North America that fits below Canada.

        I see Flodira, California, Texas etc, plus the Rockies and the Appalachians etc.

        (I have a Scottish Higher in geography, from 1977 I admit. But, as ever, I could be wrong, and I frequently am – just as my wife.)


  2. Posted January 26, 2012 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    Just thought it worth linking the famous Palue Blue Dot video that carries Carl Sagan’s inspirational narration. Just in case there is anyone who has not seen it:

  3. John Aguirre
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    Something is screwy with that image. North America is way too large. In fact, according to this image, the entire Eurasian/African continent does not exist (South America would wrap around the other side of the Earth, leaving no room for anything else).

    • Posted January 26, 2012 at 8:19 am | Permalink

      It’s a low-altitude image. You’re used to seeing full-disc images of the Earth from high orbit, high enough that you see (almost) the entire hemisphere all at once. But, with a wide-angle lens, you can even get a full-disc image of the earth from an airplane…you just won’t see more than a few hundred miles around you.

      This satellite is obviously somewhere between the two altitudes.



      • MadScientist
        Posted January 26, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

        It’s not really low – without even looking at the orbital information (which is easy enough to find) I’d say the satellite is somewhere between 300 and 800km (more likely in the lower part of the range). Considering the earth’s radius is about 6300km, you can actually calculate the geometric distortion of a full-disc image from any given altitude. Most full-disc images we are familiar with are taken from a geosynchronous orbit (38,000km above the earth’s equator) or from even further away (various lunar missions).

        • Posted January 26, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

          Of course, I should have stuck Qualifier like “comparatively” in there somewhere.

          It’s enough lower than the weather satellites (in geosynchronous, aka “high” orbit) to be noticeably distorted, even to the casual observer. On the other hand, it’s still a hundred times higher than 100.000000% (with rounding) of the population will ever personally reach.

          For that matter, it’s probably higher than the ISS. Barring missions that aren’t even on the drawing board, it’s higher than any human will ever see again. Despressing, ain’t it?


          • Diane G.
            Posted January 27, 2012 at 1:09 am | Permalink


      • John Aguirre
        Posted January 27, 2012 at 7:52 am | Permalink

        Thanks for the explanation! That makes a lot of sense.

  4. McWaffle
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    And yet somehow I still doubt Gingrich’s pledge to have a fully functioning permanent Moonbase in 8 years…s

  5. Posted January 26, 2012 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    “Ah, what we hoomans are capable of!”

  6. Neil
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    It is shaped like the United States, but it is the color of the Sahara.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted January 26, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

      Bear in mind that the satellite sees a wider band of wavelengths than you do. So colors aren’t necessarily what you’d expect.

      • Voltaire 2
        Posted January 26, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

        The image was taken in winter, so there is a lot less foliage. Besides, we have been fooled by old artwork of Earth from space that shows green continents and hardly any cloud cover.

  7. Steve
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    I can see my house!

    • Diane G.
      Posted January 27, 2012 at 1:11 am | Permalink

      Sarah Palin can see Russia.

  8. Posted January 26, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    And on this pale blue dot, human civilization, as massive as we perceive it from the ground, and in our minds, is barely visible. I can NOT see my house from here!

    • Voltaire 2
      Posted January 26, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

      I cannot see Russia or my house!

      • Diane G.
        Posted January 27, 2012 at 1:11 am | Permalink

        Great minds…

  9. Posted January 26, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    Such an amazing photo!

  10. MScott
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    I see what looks like a lot of smoke plumes (mostly in the south-eastern quadrant; only visible on the hi res at full size). Point sources with a spreading trail that seem to share a regionally common direction consistent with what could be prevailing winds. Are those from fossil-fuel plants, major industrial sites, or similar; or are they just natural cloud formations?


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