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The Blue Marble: Views of Earth From Far Away

In January 2012, the newly launched weather satellite NPP Suomi had gathered enough swaths of data to cover the entire Earth. To commemorate this, the mission team assembled this into a map and projected it over the globe:

NPP's "Blue Marble," western hemisphere, data acquired from about 824km altitude

It's a synthetic view; NPP flies too close to ever see this much of Earth at once. But there are spacecraft that do get that vaunted view—and more besides. Let's look at the Earth from increasingly more distant viewpoints...

35,786 km

GOES-7 image of Hurricane Andrew making landfall in 1992, from Geosynchronous Orbit, 35,786 km altitude

45,000 km


The original "Blue Marble" photo, taken by Apollo 17 during transearth cruise, 45,000km altitude

55,831 km

Mercury-bound MESSENGER got this during an Earth gravity assist flyby, at a distance of 55,831 km

384,000 km

The most famous of the Earthrise photos: Earth rising over the lunar limb as viewed from Apollo 8, distance of about 384,000 km

384,000 km


The USAF's Clementine spacecraft looks back from the moon, about 384,000 km away

384,000 km

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter looks back at Earth from lunar orbit, about 384,000 km away

400,000 km


The NEAR spacecraft, en route to 433 Eros, took this during a flyby of Earth, at a distance of 400,000 km

2 - 2.7 million km


Taken by Galileo during its first Earth gravity-assist flyby, between 2 and 2.7 million km away

2.6 million km

Mariner 10 looks back during departure, at a distance of 2.6 million km; a composite of two images, one of Earth and one of the Moon, moved together to show relative scale

3.5 million km

2011 Mars Odyssey looked back at Earth from 3.5 million km, in a view that shows the true size and distance relationship between Earth and Moon

6.2 million km

Taken during Galileo's second Earth gravity-assist flyby, about 6.2 million km away; the Earth and Moon are truly in conjunction

11.66 million km


Voyager 1 took this at a distance of 11.66 million km, while departing Earth; it's the first view showing both Earth and Moon together in a single frame without compositing and without being in orbit around either

From Mars

The Mars Exploration Rover A, "Spirit," saw Earth in the predawn sky on Sol 63 of its mission; the first image of Earth from the surface of another planet

142 million km

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter took this from Mars orbit, at a distance of 142 million km

183 million km

MESSENGER, looking back at Earth from Mercury, at a distance of 183 million km

183 million km

Also MESSENGER, this is a solar system portrait from Mercury; the Earth image is part of this

1.5 billion km


Cassini took this from Saturn orbit, at a distance at the time of 1.5 billion km. Look carefully through the rings; there's a bright star in there. It's Earth.

1.5 billion km


Enhanced zoom on the Earth from the previous frame

6 billion km

February 14, 1990, Voyager 1 set a record that still stands for the most distant image of Earth. It is over 6 billion km away. This montage is a solar system family portrait, showing six of the planets. Mercury was too close to the Sun to be visible at this range. They attempted to photograph Mars, but it was too faint for Voyager's camera.

6 billion km


Enhanced, enlarged view of Earth from the solar system portrait; Carl Sagan called this image the "Pale Blue Dot." It is the most distant view we've ever recorded of ourselves.

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Harry Trimble
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Design
Delightful Photo Series Celebrates Britain’s Municipal Trash Cans
Harry Trimble
Harry Trimble

Not all trash cans are alike. In the UK, few know this better than Harry Trimble, the brains behind #govbins, a photo project that aims to catalog all the trash can designs used by local governments across Britain.

Trimble, a 29-year-old designer based in South London, began the series in 2016, when he noticed the variation in trash can design across the cities he visited in the UK. While most bins are similar sizes and shapes, cities make trash cans their own with unique graphics and unusual colors. He started to photograph the cans he happened to see day-to-day, but the project soon morphed beyond that. Now, he tries to photograph at least one new bin a week.

A bright blue trash can reads ‘Knowsley Council: Recycle for Knowsley.’
Knowsley Village, England

“I got impatient,” Trimble says in an email to Mental Floss. “Now there’s increasingly more little detours and day trips” to track down new bin designs, he says, “which my friends, family and workmates patiently let me drag them on.” He has even pulled over on the road just to capture a new bin he spotted.

So far, he’s found cans that are blue, green, brown, black, gray, maroon, purple, and red. Some are only one color, while others feature lids of a different shade than the body of the can. Some look very modern, with minimalist logos and city website addresses, Trimble describes, “while others look all stately with coats of arms and crests of mythical creatures.”

A black trash can features an 'H' logo.
Hertsmere, England

A blue trash can reads ‘South Ribble Borough Council: Forward with South Ribble.’
South Ribble, England

A green trash can with a crest reads ‘Trafford Council: Food and Garden Waste Only.’
Trafford, Greater Manchester, England

Trimble began putting his images up online in 2017, and recently started an Instagram to show off his finds.

For now, he’s “more than managing” his one-can-a-week goal. See the whole series at govbins.uk.

All images by Harry Trimble

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Art
5 Things You Might Not Know About Ansel Adams

You probably know Ansel Adams—who was born on February 20, 1902—as the man who helped promote the National Park Service through his magnificent photographs. But there was a lot more to the shutterbug than his iconic, black-and-white vistas. Here are five lesser-known facts about the celebrated photographer.

1. AN EARTHQUAKE LED TO HIS DISTINCTIVE NOSE.

Adams was a four-year-old tot when the 1906 San Francisco earthquake struck his hometown. Although the boy managed to escape injury during the quake itself, an aftershock threw him face-first into a garden wall, breaking his nose. According to a 1979 interview with TIME, Adams said that doctors told his parents that it would be best to fix the nose when the boy matured. He joked, "But of course I never did mature, so I still have the nose." The nose became Adams' most striking physical feature. His buddy Cedric Wright liked to refer to Adams' honker as his "earthquake nose.

2. HE ALMOST BECAME A PIANIST.

Adams was an energetic, inattentive student, and that trait coupled with a possible case of dyslexia earned him the heave-ho from private schools. It was clear, however, that he was a sharp boy—when motivated.

When Adams was just 12 years old, he taught himself to play the piano and read music, and he quickly showed a great aptitude for it. For nearly a dozen years, Adams focused intensely on his piano training. He was still playful—he would end performances by jumping up and sitting on his piano—but he took his musical education seriously. Adams ultimately devoted over a decade to his study, but he eventually came to the realization that his hands simply weren't big enough for him to become a professional concert pianist. He decided to leave the keys for the camera after meeting photographer Paul Strand, much to his family's dismay.

3. HE HELPED CREATE A NATIONAL PARK.

If you've ever enjoyed Kings Canyon National Park in California, tip your cap to Adams. In the 1930s Adams took a series of photographs that eventually became the book Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail. When Adams sent a copy to Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, the cabinet member showed it to Franklin Roosevelt. The photographs so delighted FDR that he wouldn't give the book back to Ickes. Adams sent Ickes a replacement copy, and FDR kept his with him in the White House.

After a few years, Ickes, Adams, and the Sierra Club successfully convinced Roosevelt to make Kings Canyon a national park in 1940. Roosevelt's designation specifically provided that the park be left totally undeveloped and roadless, so the only way FDR himself would ever experience it was through Adams' lenses.

4. HE WELCOMED COMMERCIAL ASSIGNMENTS.

While many of his contemporary fine art photographers shunned commercial assignments as crass or materialistic, Adams went out of his way to find paying gigs. If a company needed a camera for hire, Adams would generally show up, and as a result, he had some unlikely clients. According to The Ansel Adams Gallery, he snapped shots for everyone from IBM to AT&T to women's colleges to a dried fruit company. All of this commercial print work dismayed Adams's mentor Alfred Stieglitz and even worried Adams when he couldn't find time to work on his own projects. It did, however, keep the lights on.

5. HE AND GEORGIA O'KEEFFE WERE FRIENDS.

Adams and legendary painter O'Keeffe were pals and occasional traveling buddies who found common ground despite their very different artistic approaches. They met through their mutual friend/mentor Stieglitz—who eventually became O'Keeffe's husband—and became friends who traveled throughout the Southwest together during the 1930s. O'Keeffe would paint while Adams took photographs.

These journeys together led to some of the artists' best-known work, like Adams' portrait of O'Keeffe and a wrangler named Orville Cox, and while both artists revered nature and the American Southwest, Adams considered O'Keeffe the master when it came to capturing the area. 

“The Southwest is O’Keeffe’s land,” he wrote. “No one else has extracted from it such a style and color, or has revealed the essential forms so beautifully as she has in her paintings.”

The two remained close throughout their lives. Adams would visit O'Keeffe's ranch, and the two wrote to each other until Adams' death in 1984.

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