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The Blue Marble: Views of Earth From Far Away

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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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Lazy Cyclists Help Make These Massive Bike Graveyards in China
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STR/AFP/Getty Images

When bike share programs go right, they can make life easier for commuters while reducing a city’s impact on the environment at the same time. When they don't go exactly as planned, they can create sprawling bicycle graveyards like the one seen in these photos.

The eerie scenes, recently spotlighted by WIRED, can be found throughout the city of Hangzhou, China. Like many large cities, Hangzhou is home to an official bike share program. But there are also private bike share companies that give cyclists the option to pick up a bike and leave it wherever they please rather than return it to an official docking station. The result is thousands of bikes scattered around the city like junk.

In response to complaints, the city of Hangzhou has begun collecting these abandoned bikes and storing them in lots. These aerial images are a good indication of the sheer number of bikers the city has—and they also have a creepy, post-apocalyptic vibe. Check out the photos below.

Bike graveyard in China.
STR/AFP/Getty Images

Bike graveyard in China.
STR/AFP/Getty Images

Bike graveyard in China.
STR/AFP/Getty Images

[h/t WIRED]

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7 Throwback Photos of 1980s NYC Subway Graffiti
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In May 1989, after a 15-year-long campaign of slowly eradicating New York City’s subway graffiti train-by-train, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority officially declared the city’s subways graffiti-free. There’s still subway graffiti in New York City today, but now it's confined to rail yards far away from the stations and tunnels. By the time the trains make it back onto the tracks, they’ve been cleaned of any markings.

There was a time, though, when graffiti artists had near-free rein to use the city’s subway trains as their canvases, as much as the transportation agency tried to stop them. A new book of photography, From the Platform 2: More NYC Subway Graffiti, 1983–1989, is an ode to that period.

A photo taken at night shows a subway train tagged

Its authors, Paul and Kenny Cavalieri, are two brothers from the Bronx who began taking photos of subway trains in 1983, during the heyday of New York City's graffiti art era. They themselves were also graffiti artists who went by the names Cav and Key, respectively. (Above is an example of Cav's work from 1988, and below is an example of Key's.) Their book is a visual tribute to their youth, New York's graffiti culture, and their fellow artists.

For anyone who rides the New York City subway today, the images paint a whole different picture of the system. Let yourself be transported back to the '80s in some of these photos: 

A subway car bears tags by
Some of Kenny (Key) Cavalieri's work, circa 1987.

Graffiti on a subway car reads

Blue letters tagged on the exterior of a subway car read “Comet.”

Pink and blue lettering reads “Bio” on the outside of a subway car.

A subway car reads “Pove” in green letters.

The book includes short commentaries and essays from other artists of the period remembering their experiences painting trains. It's a follow-up to Paul Cavalieri’s original 2011 collection From the Platform: Subway Graffiti, 1983-1989. He’s also the author of Under the Bridge: The East 238th Street Graffiti Hall Of Fame, a history of four decades of graffiti in the Bronx.

From the Platform 2 is $30 on Amazon.

[h/t The Guardian]

All images courtesy Paul and Kenny Cavalieri // Schiffer Publishing

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