Earth Day from Space

There are many ways to celebrate Earth Day, from sustainability efforts (and check out our new blog, Guilty Planet) to simply appreciating nature.

And while this is a beautiful shot of Forest Park right here in Portland, it doesn't compare -- in my eyes -- to the perfection of Earth as seen from so far away.

In October of 1946, a V-2 missile was launched from New Mexico, straight up into the air. And at its maximum height of 65 miles (just barely into what was then considered outer space), it snapped the first photographs of the Earth from Space. (And you can click every image on this page to enlarge it.)

It wasn't until Apollo 8, 22 years later, that the first color photograph of Earth was taken. The sole idea of Apollo 8 was to orbit and take photographs of the Moon, but when William Anders saw Earth rising over the Moon, he snapped the most famous photo of the mission, known simply as "Earthrise."

And now, in the 21st Century, we've got a myriad of satellites, shuttles, spacecraft and rockets to choose from if we want to photograph the Earth. And there are some beautiful shots out there, such as from the International Space Station's 7th expedition.

The IMAGE satellite captured the Aurora Australis over the southern hemisphere after a record-setting Solar Flare in 2005 (and movies are available here).

While, on the other side of the Earth, the United States' Space Shuttle photographed this shot of the Aurora Borealis in 2007.

But for the very last photo I'll leave you with, I'd like to remind you of how tiny we are once you get just a little ways away. The Cassini spacecraft, out at Saturn, took this photograph of the Earth in September 2006. The Earth is the tiny, bluish dot on the right of the image, just inside the outermost, diffuse ring.

Notice how, in the close-up inset in the upper left-hand corner, there's a little blur on the upper left hand corner of the Earth? Say hello to the Moon, as seen from Saturn.

That's us, folks. That's our wet, little rock, that nobody cares about (yet) except us Earthlings. So appreciate it, be aware of it, and -- most of all -- enjoy living on it! Happy Earth Day.

More like this

"It wasn't until Apollo 8, 22 years later, that the first color photograph of Earth was taken."

The first photograph of the whole globe, maybe. But plenty of color cameras were in Earth orbit before that, taking pictures similar to the V-2 experiment.

That picture Cassini is breathtaking. We talk about it all time, but its hard to really visualize how small we are compared to the rest of the universe

That last picture is, IMO, one of the most important pictures there is. Before that photo, many people talked, theorized and put emphasis about our place in the universe. But now we can actually see it and feel so more deeply...

By Daneel Olivaw (not verified) on 23 Apr 2009 #permalink

All of these shots just "(3rd)rock" Ethan ... more power to ya Brother! Bryn, from Brisbane Australia.

For a truly amazing and humbling perspective on our place in the universe, read the article and enjoy the associated image on the Wiki article entitled "Pale Blue Dot"

Absolutely breathtaking to realize how nearly infinitely small we are in our wonderful universe.

By Alexander (not verified) on 04 Apr 2010 #permalink

Nice to see our blue planate .....from space

By Shrikant Mokal (not verified) on 25 Aug 2012 #permalink

I wish we could wake up to a live feed from a satellite of earth... maybe it will help us want to look after it....

By Andrew Mac Gregor (not verified) on 04 Feb 2013 #permalink