The Sciences

Earth Day, from 40,000 km up

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitApr 22, 2012 11:35 AM

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Today is Earth Day, and you'll probably see a lot of blog posts telling you how to save our planet, how we're doomed, how to lower your carbon footprint, how this, how that. So instead of adding to all that, I'll simply link you to the Planet Earth site, where James Drake -- who created the phenomenal "What's it feel like to fly over planet Earth" video -- has put up amazingly high-res and lovely pictures of our home world, taken by the Russian weather satellite Electro-L. He also has high-res animations of the Earth, like this one showing the northern hemisphere:

[embed width="610"]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6twFHqJ03_k[/embed]

The colors are more-or-less true, with the addition of an infrared layer colored orange in the images and video; that is generally vegetation you're seeing in that color. Since Electro-L is a geostationary satellite, its orbital period is 24 hours, and it appears to hover over one spot on the planet. So to its view, the Earth doesn't appear to rotate. Instead, the Sun looks like it spins around the Earth once per day, and in fact you can see its reflection in the water. It's a magnificent view, as befits our wonderful world.

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