Fifty years after Apollo 17 astronauts sent back an iconic image of Earth, capturing the awe of the cosmos and the fragility of our planet like never before, time-lapse images have been released to mark the anniversary.
The Blue Marble, as it was known, was photographed on December 7, 1972 and at the time featured an unprecedented level of detail.
With clouds swirling above the sun-drenched continent of Africa, surrounded by the vivid blues of Earth’s oceans, the planet stood out like a beacon amid the deep darkness of space.
In partnership with Planetary Visions and NASA, who led the Apollo 17 mission, Living Earth Orchestra (LEO) has released unique time-lapse images to show how the planet has changed.
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Since 2015, NASA has operated a deep space observatory equipped with a camera called EPIC.
It is a million miles from Earth and takes Blue Marble-style images every two hours.
But today, NASA commissioned EPIC to take images every 13 minutes for three hours, creating a near real-time view of the planet.
The results can be seen in the video below.
LEO has developed technology to broadcast such images of Earth anywhere, anytime, and there are plans to build a constellation of satellites to show the planet day and night.
Chief scientist Dr Jan-Peter Muller, Emeritus Professor of Imagery Understanding and Remote Sensing at UCL, said the images will inspire a new generation to care for Earth’s future, just like the Blue Marble did.
“We’re revealing both the wonders and the damage to Earth’s ecosystems. When you see what’s happening, it’s a compelling wake-up call,” he said.
“We believe this is a vital new tool for all concerned and responsible.”
LEO’s goal was to “make visible the state of the Earth globally and locally”, but Dr Muller said it had “taken many years to gather the necessary technology”.
The hope is that the images will show not only how the planet has changed since 1972, but how it may change in the years to come.