Spectacular composite images from NASA. If you have the bandwidth, definitely check out the full size renditions (Eastern hemisphere, and my home, the Western hemisphere), each of which is nearly 3MB in size. You'll feel like you're floating in space over the earth.
These are not photographs. These are carefully constructed from large databases of images taken at many different times and places.
Drawing on data from multiple satellite missions (not all collected at the same time), a team of NASA scientists and graphic artists created layers of global data for everything from the land surface, to polar sea ice, to the light reflected by the chlorophyll in the billions of microscopic plants that grow in the ocean. They wrapped these layers around a globe, set it against a black background, and simulated the hazy edge of the Earth’s atmosphere (the limb) that appears in astronaut photography of the Earth.
Most of the data layers in this visualization are available as monthly composites as part of NASA’s Blue Marble Next Generation image collection. The images in the collection appear in cylindrical projection (rectangular maps), and they are available at 500-meter resolution. The large images provided above are the full-size versions of these globes. In their hope that these images will inspire people to appreciate the beauty of our home planet and to learn about the Earth system, the developers of these images encourage readers to re-use and re-publish the images freely.
- Twin Blue Marbles, NASA Earth Observatory
Blue Marble: Next Generation