We all know how Earth looks from a million miles away thanks to an image release by NASA captured by DSCOVR satellite. Now a new set of test images released by NASA show the fully illuminated “dark side” of the moon crossing face of Earth.
The images were captured by NASA’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC), a four megapixel CCD camera and telescope on the DSCOVR satellite. The primary mission of DSCOVR is to monitor solar wind in real time. The satellite’s EPIC keeps its eyes firmly on the fully illuminated Earth as it rotates and provides information about ozone, vegetation, cloud height and aerosols in the atmosphere.
Captured between 3:50 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. EDT on July 16, the images provide one of the most stunning looks of moon and the Earth. The moon is shown crossing the Pacific Ocean near North America with the North Pole in the upper left corner of the image, reflecting the orbital tilt of Earth from the vantage point of the spacecraft.
The far side of the moon, which is never visible to us from Earth, lacks the large, dark, basaltic plains, or maria, that are so prominent on the Earth-facing side. The largest far side features are Mare Moscoviense in the upper left and Tsiolkovskiy crater in the lower left. A thin sliver of shadowed area of moon is visible on its right side.
Though we have had a similar view earlier – thanks to NASA’s Deep Impact spacecraft – that capture a photo of Earth and the moon in May 2008, it was from a distance of a whopping 31 million miles. Further, that images showed moon passing in front of Earth when it was only partially illuminated by the sun.
EPIC takes a series of 10 images using different narrowband spectral filters – from ultraviolet to near infrared. The latest set of images were generated by combining three separate monochrome exposures taken by the camera in quick succession. Scientists have used the red, green and blue channel images to come up with the natural colour images.
“It is surprising how much brighter Earth is than the moon,” said Adam Szabo, DSCOVR project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “Our planet is a truly brilliant object in dark space compared to the lunar surface.”
EPIC will commence its regular observations of Earth next month and we will get to see daily colour images of Earth as NASA will be posing them online on a dedicated public website.