Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

The most famous image of Earth is not what it seems

1280px-BlueMarble-2001-2002.jpg

We've all looked at the famous picture above of the Earth from space (probably more than you realise, as it's also the iPhone's default background image), contemplating how amazing our planet is and how miniscule we really are. 

The picture is called Blue Marble - and we're sorry to say your momentary philosophical whims are inspired by a Photoshop lie.

The original image taken by Apollo 17 was the most accurate, hi-resolution photo of the Earth ever, but the NASA Blue Marble pic isn't a real photograph. It's a composite of numerous images layered on top of each other. 

Created by Robert Simmon, the Photoshop whiz used a 43,200-pixel by 21,600-pixel map of the Earth stitched together by Reto Stöckli. Stöckli used about ten thousand 300-megabyte satellite scenes captured by the Terra satellite over a period of 100 days. But his image was just clean land and sea, having removed all the clouds.

Simmons decided to add more details to make it more realistic, adding texture and ice to the water which he based on NASA's data on chlorophyll levels.

Then came the weather, creating a "map of clouds stitched together from 200 satellite scenes" as well as a topographic map to add elevation to our planet's land masses. 

blue marble

Using 3D software (the same used in the space battle scenes in the Star Wars trilogy remake) he started to pull it all together.

After mapping the images onto spheres, he adjusted them in Photoshop by "tweaking and re-tweaking transparency, layer masks, hue, saturation, gaussian blur, and curves to get an image that looked like the picture I had in my head."

And so one of the most famous images in the world was born of computer wizardry. And now we're having an existential crisis. 


MORE


Related

water12.jpg

This 4K Video Of Water In Space Is Amazing

moonlanding1.jpg

Brilliant Stop-Motion Film of the Moon Landing Photos

mars.jpg

Some People Think The Martian Is Based On A True Story

Comments

More

A man has used his fidget spinner to like EVERYBODY on Tinder

Where's the quality control, though?

by Gary Ogden
25 May 2017

This new emoji tool tells you which are still cool and which are lame

Less 💅, more 🍆

by Emily Reynolds
24 May 2017

You can now buy the revamped Nokia 3310 in the UK

The retro phone you know and love is back (kind of)

by Matt Tate
24 May 2017

Nintendo respond to touching thank you letter from a blind fan

"We want to keep making games that everyone can have fun playing"

by Matt Tate
24 May 2017

Secret rules on what Facebook allows you to post have been revealed

And it's a pretty confused state of affairs

by Dave Fawbert
22 May 2017

Stephen Hawking reckons we only have 100 years left on Earth

Anyway, happy Friday!

by Tom Mendelsohn
19 May 2017

Watch a young Mark Zuckerberg discover he's got into Harvard

His dad is a lot more excited than he is

by Tom Mendelsohn
19 May 2017

Nintendo have removed a gesture deemed to be offensive from Mario Kart

Up yours, Yoshi

by Matt Tate
18 May 2017

This is rumoured to be the iPhone 8's finished design

Bye bye bezels (maybe)

by Matt Tate
18 May 2017

We might be about to get smartphones that charge fully in five minutes

An Israeli start-up claims it's going to go into production next year

by Tom Mendelsohn
15 May 2017