Spaceflight Insider

DSCOVR satellite takes ‘EPIC’ image of Earth

A NASA camera on the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR ) satellite has taken its first image of the entire sunlit side of Earth from a distance of one million miles. NASA’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) generated the color image by combing three separate images to create a photographic quality image. The camera can produce a variety of scientific images by taking a series of 10 images using different narrow-band filters ranging from ultraviolet to near-infrared. The Earth image is a composite of the red, blue, and green channel images.

“This first DSCOVR image of our planet demonstrates the unique and important benefits of Earth observation from space,” said NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden. “As a former astronaut who’s been privileged to view the Earth from orbit, I want everyone to be able to see and appreciate our planet as an integrated, interacting system. DSCOVR’s observations of Earth, as well as its measurements and early warnings of space weather events caused by the Sun, will help every person to monitor the ever-changing Earth, and to understand how our planet fits into its neighborhood in the Solar System.”

SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket with NOAA NASA photo credit Mike Deep SpaceFlight Insider

DSCOVR lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida on Feb. 11, 2015. Photo Credit: Mike Deep / SpaceFlight Insider

The initial Earth images have a blue-ish tint due to the effect of sunlight being scattered by air molecules. The EPIC team is currently working on a rendering of the images that removes the atmospheric effect and emphasizes land features. Once the EPIC instrument begins data acquisition, new images will be available every day, 12 to 36 hours after they are acquired. By September, the images will be posted on a dedicated website.

“The high quality of the EPIC images exceeded all of our expectations in resolution,” said Adam Szabo, DSCOVR project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “The images clearly show desert sand structures, river systems, and complex cloud patterns. There will be a huge wealth of new data for scientists to explore.”

The DISCOVR mission is a collaboration between NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the U.S. Air Force. DSCOVR’s primary objective is to maintain the nation’s real-time solar wind monitoring capabilities, which are vital to the accuracy and lead time of space weather alerts and NOAA forecasts. These forecasts can provide warning of space weather events such as the geomagnetic storms caused by changes in the solar wind that can potentially disrupt vital infrastructures such as power grids, telecommunications, GPS, and aviation.

The satellite was launched from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on February 11, 2015, atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket. DSCOVR recently reached the first Lagrange point (L1), about one million miles from Earth toward the Sun. This L1 point is a good position from which to monitor the Sun, because the solar wind, a constant stream of particles from the Sun, reaches L1 about an hour before reaching Earth.

Video courtesy of NOAA



Jim Sharkey is a lab assistant, writer and general science enthusiast who grew up in Enid, Oklahoma, the hometown of Skylab and Shuttle astronaut Owen K. Garriott. As a young Star Trek fan he participated in the letter-writing campaign which resulted in the space shuttle prototype being named Enterprise. While his academic studies have ranged from psychology and archaeology to biology, he has never lost his passion for space exploration. Jim began blogging about science, science fiction and futurism in 2004. Jim resides in the San Francisco Bay area and has attended NASA Socials for the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover landing and the NASA LADEE lunar orbiter launch.

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