The Earth rise picture from the Apollo 8 mission is an iconic image in humanity’s history. For the first time, a small group of humans saw the Earth as just a small, blue marble, rising above the desolate landscape of the Moon. For the first time, humanity itself saw how tiny and precious it was.
Those of us who grew up with this image may never know what it was truly like to experience that look. We’ve seen Earth from space most of our lives. In fact, I used to turn our cable television to the NASA TV channel when I was in high school and just sit and stare at the vistas of Earth from low Earth orbit as the planet slowly rotated beneath the shuttles or the fledgling International Space Station.
We now have a new Earth rise photo, courtesy of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, and a new 24-hour live view of Earth from the completed International Space Station. The world is ours to view again.
Last February, LRO took a break from its constant mapping of the lunar surface and took a peek at one of the 12 earth rises that it gets every day, providing us this gorgeous image above from the Wide-Angle Camera. The images are also important for lunar science, as the WAC is occasionally pointed to the limb of the Moon to explore its exosphere, or its thin, tenuous atmosphere. The original frames can be put together in an animated gif to show Earth rise happening, though not in full color.
In the video the “venetian blind” banding demonstrates how a WAC image is built up frame-by-frame. The gaps between the frames are due to the real separation of the WAC filters on the CCD. The longest wavelength (689 nm) band is at the bottom of the scene, and the shortest (415 nm) is at the top; note how the Earth is brighter when it enters the top band due to the blue from the ocean. The frames were acquired at two second intervals, so the total time to collect the sequence was 5 minutes. The video is faster than reality by a factor of ~20.
If this makes you yearn for real-time video of the Earth, you are in luck! The International Space Station is now broadcasting views of the Earth live and in High Def (almost) 24/7. With four cameras running full time to test the long term survivability of camera systems in space, you can reap the benefits of living in the future, even if it just makes you nostalgic for the late 90s. Best part, you are watching along with tens of thousands of other humans anytime you check in. Visit the NASA Ustream channel or watch it embedded right here.
As I’m typing this, I’m listening to talk radio in the background. However, I imagine that one could set some truly beautiful music to the worldly vistas. What music do you think should go best with these stunning views? I might put on Holst’s “The Planets” or get modern with some Daft Punk…