Satellite Image Captures North American in 8,000 Pixels [Astronomy]

By Jason Fitzpatrick on January 27th, 2012

If you’re looking for a new wallpaper this ultra-high resolution image of the Earth’s surface spans a whopping 8,000 by 8,000 pixels.

Courtesy of NASA and the Visible Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), the image provides an intimate look at North America. Although this image is floating around the internet with the claim attached that it is the highest resolution image of Earth ever taken, that’s simply untrue. The Los Angeles Times explains:

Some media outlets have reported that the image is the largest image ever made of our planet, but Norman Kuring, the NASA oceanographer who actually made the image, told The Times that simply is not true.

“I’m surprised that it’s gone viral,” he said. “I think what’s happening in the general public is seeing a larger image than they are used to seeing, but there have been higher sensing instruments around for a number of years.”

Kuring explained that this particular image was made using data collected by the Visible Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite, which is on a satellite flying 512 miles above the Earth. VIIRS is not really a camera — rather it has a scanning telescope that measures the difference between the amount of light coming down to the surface of Earth from the sun as compared to the amount of light that is reflected back to the telescope. Kuring made the image above by running code that translates that data into an image.

The last paragraph is really what makes the image the most fascinating for us–the massive image is actually a composite of data collected from scanning instruments and not, as one would expect, simply a panorama of photographs snapped from space.

Hit up the link below to grab pre-sized wallpaper images or the master 8000×8000 image to custom crop for your desktop.

Blue Marble [via LA Times]

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 01/27/12
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