July 21, 2016 – On July 20, 2015, NASA released to the world the first image of the sunlit side of Earth captured by the space agency’s EPIC camera on NOAA’s DSCOVR satellite. The camera has now recorded a full year of life on Earth from its orbit at Lagrange point 1, approximately 1 million miles from Earth, where it is balanced between the gravity of our home planet and the sun.
EPIC takes a new picture every two hours, revealing how the planet would look to human eyes, capturing the ever-changing motion of clouds and weather systems and the fixed features of Earth such as deserts, forests and the distinct blues of different seas.
The haze seen around the edges is due to scattering of light by molecules in the atmosphere. Scattering is also what makes the sky appear blue during the day and red at sunset. The colors shown are our best estimate of what a human sitting at the location of EPIC would see. The camera records each set in 10 different wavelengths. At least three separate wavelengths–red, green, and blue–are combined to produce this color view.
The hourly images of the entire sunlit side of the Earth provided by EPIC are used to study the daily variations of features over the entire globe helping us to better understand and protect our home planet. EPIC allows scientists to monitor ozone and aerosol levels in Earth’s atmosphere, cloud height, vegetation properties and the ultraviolet reflectivity of Earth.
The primary objective of DSCOVR, a partnership between NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Air Force, is to maintain the nation’s real-time solar wind monitoring capabilities, which are critical to the accuracy and lead time of space weather alerts and forecasts from NOAA.
NOAA is operating DSCOVR from its NOAA Satellite Operations Facility in Suitland, Maryland, and processes the space weather data at the Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) in Boulder, Colorado. From there, the SWPC distributes the DSCOVR data to users within the United States and around the world. The data is archived at NOAA’s National Geophysical Data Center, also in Boulder.
Data from the NASA-funded secondary sensors for Earth and space science observations are processed at NASA’s DSCOVR Science Operations Center and archived and distributed by NASA’s Atmospheric Science Data Center.
Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. developed the advanced radiometer instrument – called Scripps NISTAR – working with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.