NASA Spacecraft Obtains Most Stunning Images of Earth Since Apollo Program

North America and Central America are shown in extraordinary detail by instruments on board the new National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project, or NPP launched October 28 from Vandenberg AFB, Calif. The image scans from the arctic to southern Central America, all of Mexico and the United States. Photo Credit: NASA

The NPP satellite is the first designed to collect critical data to improve short-term weather forecasts and increase understanding of long-term climate change. Shortly after launch it was renamed the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership, or Suomi NPP spacecraft.

The renaming was in honor of the late Verner E. Suomi, a meteorologist at the University of Wisconsin who is recognized widely as “the father of satellite meteorology.” He died in 1995 at age 79. Suomi developed the original spin scan radiometers that could image the Earth from orbit as the satellite spun for stabilization. He was also active in planetary mission science especially studies of  the Venus and Jupiter atmospheres.

In the NPP image specific U. S. features stand out,  like the turquoise costal waters around Florida, the Colorado Plateau and the Grand Canyon area. The plateau appears as a raised circular area about the size of a nickel . If  your computer’s mouse is capable of enlarging the image these areas especially stand out when enlarged as does California’s Central Valley.

According to NASA Earth imaging experts the image is the most stunning view of the planet taken since the Apollo program when astronauts took dozens of earth images during their roundtrips to the Moon.

View of the Earth as seen by the Apollo 17 crew traveling toward the moon in December 1972. This photograph extends from the Mediterranean Sea area to the Antarctica south polar ice cap. This is the first time the Apollo trajectory made it possible to photograph the south polar ice cap. Note the heavy cloud cover in the Southern Hemisphere. Almost the entire coastline of Africa is clearly visible. The Arabian Peninsula can be seen at the northeastern edge of Africa. The large island off the coast of Africa is Madagascar. The Asian mainland is on the horizon toward the northeast. Photo Credit: NASA

Another series of spectacular earth images was stitched together from several instrument scans with the Terra Earth monitoring spacecraft. This NASA image below has been made especially popular as a “wallpaper” option on the Apple iPhone’s, iPads and computers. Compare it with the new NPP image.

Photo Credit: NASA
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