"We'd like to confirm, from the crew of Apollo 17, that the world is round."
February 11, 2008 8:34 AM   Subscribe

The most widely-distributed photograph in history may be The Blue Marble, a shot taken in 1972 by an unknown crewmember on Apollo 17. In 2002, NASA released a new Blue Marble photograph, familiar to desktops everywhere, using a composite of many photographs. In 2005, Blue Marble: The Next Generation offered even better views and some spectacular animations of the seasons from space. In the same spirit, the Discovery Channel just launched Earth Live, which lets you see the dynamics of weather and climate through a well done interface.
posted by blahblahblah (37 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
I'm getting a banner and sidebar ads on the Earth Live page, and nothing else, in both FF and IE. Wha? I hope somebody figures this out because I really want to see it!
posted by rtha at 8:51 AM on February 11, 2008

Earth Live has been getting some positive press so I'm anxious to see it but it is crashing my system (Firefox - I did get one story loaded and seems like a cool idea. Anyway, good collection of links for this FPP.
posted by stbalbach at 8:55 AM on February 11, 2008

Earth Live blew me away at first (FF 2 on Linux, I don't know what your problems are) but quickly sucked me right back. All I can view is a few static cloud maps and temperature charts? Meh.
posted by DU at 8:59 AM on February 11, 2008

I'm not having problems running Earth Live (at least on XP FF, but I am surprised that you only saw static views: the "Featured Stories" are all dynamic (the size of Katrina is stunning), but the "Create a Story" section is static data, but at least static data in the last 24 hours. It looks like they will be adding a more data feeds in the future.
posted by blahblahblah at 9:03 AM on February 11, 2008

MightBeADumbQuestionFilter: Does the Earth really look from space like the 2002 Blue Marble composite photo? The blue of the ocean seems a bit too technicolor considering the distance.
posted by Pastabagel at 9:03 AM on February 11, 2008

Oh yeah, the featured stories were dynamic. But I don't know about "stunning". It looked like a local weather report's doppler radar projected onto a sphere.

Maybe my expectations were too high.
posted by DU at 9:07 AM on February 11, 2008

Where's the feed for the images coming from? How frequently is it updated?
posted by jasper411 at 9:20 AM on February 11, 2008

My grandmother worked at a photo place, I had a print of the Blue Marble on standard 4x6 Kodak paper like all your other pictures from the 70's from copies of the negative that got passed around. Wish I still had it.
posted by zengargoyle at 9:22 AM on February 11, 2008

"Anyone using or republishing Blue Marble: Next Generation please credit “NASA’s Earth Observatory.”"

Does that mean this stuff is free to use, for everyone, as long as the attribution is given? Wow.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 9:22 AM on February 11, 2008

So am I alone in noting that the major "improvement" between the 1972 and 2002 Blue Marble photos is taking the focus off of Africa and literally making America the center of the world?

I bet Nat X would agree with me.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 9:23 AM on February 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

ditto DU. Really quite dull; low resolution, no zooming. The dynamic news appears in little boxes, which is dull.
posted by Grod at 9:25 AM on February 11, 2008

GhostintheMachine most imagery created by the fed is copyright free. There are exceptions but for the most part if the government made it you can use it.
posted by Grod at 9:26 AM on February 11, 2008

Uther Bentrazor: "So am I alone in noting that the major "improvement" between the 1972 and 2002 Blue Marble photos is taking the focus off of Africa and literally making America the center of the world?"

Nope. First thing I noticed too. And it's not just America, Uther.

It's Texas.
posted by Opposite George at 9:27 AM on February 11, 2008

That 2002 New Blue Marble photo has always bothered me. There are regions that I swear look like bad photshop. For example - there's a big swirl off Baja, right? Now drop straight down, to where you're roughly level with the top of South America - you should be on a long line of clouds or storms. Again, right below the big swirl off Baja, some of those storms look identical. Like, down to the little swirly bits I'd expect to be totally chaotic.

I suppose that when you look really really close, there are merely highly self-similar, and it's all a great triumph of the fractal stuff. But it sure looks like someone needed to "flesh out" the cloud cover a little or got lazy with their compositing.
posted by freebird at 9:27 AM on February 11, 2008

The picture has clouds over me, I want a re-shoot.
posted by mrnutty at 9:32 AM on February 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

This Blue Marble: Next Generation image is true color, there's info on colors in the PDF off the main Next Generation link. And, DU, I mean that the size of Katrina was stunning, Earth Live itself is interesting, but not yet up to its full potential, but, hey, its free and still pretty nifty.
posted by blahblahblah at 9:36 AM on February 11, 2008

From the first link:

Apple thinks that there are a couple of Internet backbone hubs in Antarctica. Presumably the penguins run Linux.

I have visited Fort William, but I don't remember seeing Earth rising above the mountains. What planet do they think they're on?

SECUREDox found the African deserts depressing, so transformed them into lush green forests.
posted by Brocktoon at 9:36 AM on February 11, 2008

It is not Texas, it is Mexico.
posted by dov3 at 9:36 AM on February 11, 2008

The "spectacular animations" link is wonderful; I love watching the green cover grow and recede at two months per second; it gives you a sharp sense of the planet as a living system. Thanks for this, blahblahblah.
posted by mediareport at 9:39 AM on February 11, 2008

"So am I alone in noting that the major "improvement" between the 1972 and 2002 Blue Marble photos is taking the focus off of Africa and literally making America the center of the world?"

There are actually two 2002 images linked there: one each for the Eastern and Western hemispheres. There are also the projections available at the bottom of the page.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 9:40 AM on February 11, 2008

dov3: "It is not Texas, it is Mexico."

Party pooper.
posted by Opposite George at 9:55 AM on February 11, 2008

Blue Marble: The Next Generation

So, it is bigger, can separate into two main parts, and is helmed by a British dude? No thanks. I'll take Blue Marble: The Original Series.

It's less realistic, but then, it also has the anti-Earth episode, and that goatee it sports is just priceless.
posted by quin at 10:02 AM on February 11, 2008

Earth Live ran fine for me as well, but I wasn't terribly impressed with it's current content (other than Katrina... wow!) I suspect it will be seriously cool when they have added more stuff to do with it.
posted by quin at 10:04 AM on February 11, 2008

We can't put it together.
It is together.
posted by Flashman at 10:47 AM on February 11, 2008

Virtually every picture showing the full Earth derives from one photograph taken in 1972. Yet hardly anybody notices this.
I'd sure noticed it, and I always wondered how, what with all the time we'd spent in space, this was the only picture of the earth deemed worthwhile of reproduction.
Were the cosmonauts otherwise too busy with their ant farms to take a look out of the window once in a while?

The first link asserts that it's because environmentalists and anti-poverty campaigners disseminated it to serve their needs, but surely if there was a photo framing north america that one would also have been publicized.
posted by Flashman at 10:57 AM on February 11, 2008

I'm really not a fan of these new digital composites of the world. They're too Technicolor, too Photoshop-y. I think that images of Earth are always better when they're raw photos actually taken from thousands of miles away. They may not be as sharp or as colorful as patchwork satellite imagery or computer simulations, but they still convey that sense of scale and wonder and authenticity that only comes from the real, unprocessed thing. Just the thought that a real human held up a camera and snapped a picture of the entire planet, with our entire civilization, billions of people, all known life just hanging there in space... gives me chills just thinking about it.

Seeing Earth from afar must be one of the most spectacular sights in the universe. And the people who've actually done it sum it up well:

Suddenly, from behind the rim of the Moon, in long, slow-motion moments of immense majesty, there emerges a sparkling blue and white jewel, a light, delicate sky-blue sphere laced with slowly swirling veils of white, rising gradually like a small pearl in a thick sea of black mystery. It takes more than a moment to fully realize this is Earth... home.
— Edgar Mitchell

To fly in space is to see the reality of Earth, alone. The experience changed my life and my attitude toward life itself. I am one of the lucky ones.
— Roberta Bondar

As we got further and further away, Earth diminished in size. Finally it shrank to the size of a marble, the most beautiful you can imagine. That beautiful, warm, living object looked so fragile, so delicate, that if you touched it with a finger it would crumble and fall apart. Seeing this has to change a man.
— James B. Irwin

It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.
— Neil Armstrong

The Earth was small, light blue, and so touchingly alone... our home must be defended like a holy relic.
— Aleksei Leonov

In outer space you develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, "Look at that, you son of a bitch!"
— Edgar Mitchell

For those who have seen the Earth from space, and for the hundreds and perhaps thousands more who will, the experience most certainly changes your perspective. The things that we share in our world are far more valuable than those which divide us.
— Donald Williams
posted by Rhaomi at 11:15 AM on February 11, 2008 [13 favorites]

I want to view the HD animation of Blue Marble 2002:

HDTV Resolution (19 MB MPEG-2) (Available on the Visible Earth)
Lossless HDTV Resolution (210 MB Quicktime)**

I have the bit torrent client installed, but clicking the link above just keeps redirecting me to the FAQ. Anyone have any ideas on how to get this?
posted by jeffamaphone at 12:05 PM on February 11, 2008

Ah found it here: http://visibleearth.nasa.gov/view_detail.php?id=2434
posted by jeffamaphone at 12:07 PM on February 11, 2008

I cannot get the earthlive to work on my machine either. Huh.
posted by maxwelton at 12:23 PM on February 11, 2008

Just like everything else, the original is the most spectacular.
posted by fusinski at 12:26 PM on February 11, 2008

The original's pretty neat, but I remember photo from one of the later unmanned probes that sent back shot of Earth and the Moon in the same frame. Both were so small they were barely perceptible as more than pixels, the one bluish, the other white, against a field of black. The implications of that visual stunned me even more than the one we're discussing.
posted by pax digita at 12:36 PM on February 11, 2008

Agreed, Pax. The images of Earth from the surface of Mars give me chills, even though the planet itself looks much less gorgeous.
posted by freebird at 12:52 PM on February 11, 2008

Pale Blue Dot
Pale Blue Orb (part of In Saturn's Shadow)
Earth from Mars
posted by Bugg at 2:31 PM on February 11, 2008

Voyager's Ocean Planet
Adios Earth
posted by Bugg at 2:53 PM on February 11, 2008

The most widely-distributed photograph in history may be The Blue Marble

And... it may not be.
posted by grouse at 1:30 AM on February 12, 2008

Animations set to Vivaldi and slowed down a bit (3 minute .mov files)... here - large (58mb) is pretty cool in full screen mode.
posted by wiseleyb at 11:39 PM on February 12, 2008

it gives you a sharp sense of the planet as a living system.

it's the planet breathing--plant life taking up and then releasing carbon dioxide.
posted by eustatic at 9:28 PM on February 14, 2008

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