Most Detailed Picture Of Earth Released By NASA

Earth From Space: 18 Jaw-Dropping Pictures

From Earthrise to Black Marble to Pale Blue Dot ... and beyond!

Of the roughly 100 billion people who have ever been born, only a relative handful ― fewer than 600 ― have flown in space. And when they returned to solid ground, virtually every one of those men and women emphasized how fragile and breathtaking Earth looks, alone in an unimaginably vast (and cold) cosmos.

In that same spirit of awe and humility, here are 18 stunning views of our only home seen from far, far away.

LIVING CRESCENT Science & Society Picture Library/SSPL via Getty Images LIVING CRESCENT This is the first photograph of Earth ever taken from the vicinity of the moon. On August 23, 1966, America's unmanned Lunar Orbiter I spacecraft was on its sixteenth orbit of the moon and roughly a quarter-million miles from Earth when it took this shot. EARTHRISE NASA EARTHRISE On Dec. 24, 1968, Apollo 8 astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and William Anders took this picture of the Earth and the moon, dubbed "Earthrise" ― an image that distills and defines the stark difference between a living world and a lifeless one.

As the American physician, poet, and essayist Lewis Thomas put it, years later: "Viewed from the distance of the moon, the astonishing thing about the Earth … is that it is alive. Photographs show the dry, pounded surface of the moon in the foreground, dry as an old bone. Aloft, floating free … is the rising Earth, the only exuberant thing in this part of the cosmos."
BLUE MARBLE NASA/Getty Images BLUE MARBLE As they traveled toward the moon on December 7, 1972, the crew of Apollo 17 ― Eugene Cernan, Ronald Evans, and Harrison Schmitt ― took this picture, now famous as "Blue Marble." According to NASA, it is one of the most widely distributed photographs in history. When the environmental movement was gaining ground in the early 1970s, Blue Marble was quickly adopted by green activists everywhere as a symbol of life's interconnectedness.

It's also worth noting that, because Apollo 17 was the last manned lunar mission, no human has traveled far enough from Earth to capture a "whole-Earth" picture like this one for more than 45 years ― although plenty of unmanned missions have managed the feat.
BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITIES ESA BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITIES This January 28, 2016, photo by European Space Agency astronaut Tim Peake shows the view along the English Channel, with the UK on the left and France on the right; the bright lights of London, Paris, and other metropolitan areas; and the perfectly arced, looming curve of the Earth. CIRCLE GAME Barcroft Media/Barcroft Media via Getty Images CIRCLE GAME Astronauts on the International Space Station captured the abstract symmetry of irrigated fields in Texas in November 2016. The space station orbits the Earth at an altitude of about 240 miles; travels at roughly 17,000 miles an hour (5 miles per second); and circles the planet 15 times a day. LET IT SHINE ESA LET IT SHINE German astronaut Alexander Gerst took this beautiful picture of the Earth reflecting light from the sun while working aboard the International Space Station in July 2014.

"My view of our planet," said Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell, "was a glimpse of divinity."
INTO THE WEST NASA INTO THE WEST Sometimes the hint of Earth's full glory can be as powerful as a complete portrait of the planet. Such is the case here, in a photo taken on November 9, 1967, during a test flight by the unmanned Apollo 4. "Seen looking west," NASA's website notes of this picture, "are coastal Brazil, the Atlantic Ocean, West Africa and Antarctica. This photograph was made as the Apollo 4 spacecraft, still attached to the S-IVB (third) stage, orbited Earth at an altitude of 9,544 miles." SIMPLY GRAND Sally Ride EarthKAM SIMPLY GRAND Named for the celebrated astronaut, physicist, and first American woman in space, the Sally Ride EarthKAM (Earth Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students) is "a NASA educational outreach program that enables students, teachers, and the public to learn about Earth from the unique perspective of space." What's especially cool about EarthKAM is that from Earth, via the internet, students can control a digital camera attached to the International Space Station, and take pictures like this mesmerizing April 2017 shot of the Grand Canyon. A LAKE RUNS THROUGH IT ISS / NASA A LAKE RUNS THROUGH IT On June 19, 2016, an astronaut aboard the International Space Station took this photograph while flying over Asia, looking to the southeast.

Andrea Meado, a geoscientist at the Johnson Space Center, wrote of this picture on NASA's site: "In the foreground we see Lake Balkhash in Kazakhstan…. The cloud-covered Tian Shan Mountains of northwest China feed snowmelt waters to the Ili River and Lake Balkhash. Set against the darkness of space, the moon appears to hover over the landscape. Astronauts on the ISS see the same lunar phases as we do on the ground. The steep color gradient in the upper third of the photo marks the edge of Earth’s atmosphere…."
BLUE MARBLE 2.0 Barcroft/Barcroft Media via Getty Images BLUE MARBLE 2.0 When this updated version of the iconic 1972 Blue Marble photograph was taken from the Suomi NPP satellite in January 2012, NASA declared it "the most amazing, highest resolution image of Earth ever." Fair enough. But the space agency could have added any number of other adjectives ― marvelous, unreal, gobsmacking ― and none of them could have even begun to fully capture the picture's power.

"The Earth was small, light blue, and so touchingly alone," recalled cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov of his first off-planet view of our world. "I believe I never knew what the word 'round' meant until I saw Earth from space."
BLACK MARBLE NASA BLACK MARBLE "Nothing tells us more about the spread of humans across the Earth than city lights," National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist Chris Elvidge said when NASA released this "Black Marble" image in 2012. At the time, Elvidge had spent 20 years studying the reach and the effect of nighttime lights on Earth. "Even after 20 years, I'm always amazed at what city light images show us about human activity."

This picture, according to NASA, "is a composite assembled from data acquired by the Suomi NPP satellite. The data was acquired over nine days in April 2012 and thirteen days in October 2012." It took 312 orbits and 2.5 terabytes of data to get a clear shot of every parcel of Earth's land surface and its islands.
RIGHT ABOUT... THERE! David Neff/Corbis via Getty Images RIGHT ABOUT... THERE! In a photo taken on July 19, 2013, a wide-angle camera on NASA's Cassini spacecraft captured Saturn's rings, the Earth (arrow), and Earth's moon in the same frame. As NASA phrased it: "A robotic space probe nearly 900 million miles from Earth turned its gaze away from Saturn and its entourage of moons to take a picture of its home planet."

Nine hundred million ― a number so large it's difficult to grasp. To put it in perspective: change "miles" to "seconds," and consider that if you said the word "Earth" every second of every day, without stopping, it would take you about 30 years to say it 900 million times.
STRAIT ON THROUGH Space Frontiers/Getty Images STRAIT ON THROUGH The Strait of Gibraltar is one of the world's most storied navigational landmarks ― a gateway between worlds. Here, in a photo taken from the space shuttle Endeavour in May 1996, Spain is on the right; Morocco on the left; the Atlantic Ocean at the top; and the Mediterranean at the bottom. A mere eight miles of water separates Europe and Africa.

The picture brings to mind a sentiment voiced by cosmonaut Aleksandr Aleksandrov: "We were flying over America and suddenly I saw snow, the first snow we ever saw from orbit. I have never visited America, but I imagined that the arrival of autumn and winter is the same there as in other places, and the process of getting ready for them is the same. And then it struck me that we are all children of our Earth."
THE GOOD STUFF UniversalImagesGroup/UIG via Getty Images THE GOOD STUFF A color satellite image of the entire Earth at night, with cloud coverage, compiled from data acquired by the satellites LANDSAT 5 (the longest-operating Earth-orbiting satellite in history) and LANDSAT 7.

"Looking outward to the blackness of space, sprinkled with the glory of a universe of lights, I saw majesty — but no welcome. Below was a welcoming planet…. That's where life is; that's where all the good stuff is." — Loren Acton (b. 1936), an American physicist who flew as a Payload Specialist on the Space Shuttle in 1985.
QUEEN OF THE ADRIATIC QUEEN OF THE ADRIATIC Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency shared this photograph from the International Space Station on Feb. 14, 2017, along with the words, "Venice, city of gondoliers and the lovers they carry along the canals. Happy Valentine's Day!"

Venice is under threat from far, far too many tourists (close to 30 million a year, pouring into a city of just 260,000) and climate change-driven rising seas. This photo illustrates how vulnerable the ancient, beloved city really is.
PALE BLUE DOT David Neff/Corbis via Getty Images PALE BLUE DOT Taken on February 14, 1990, by the Voyager 1 space probe 3.7 billion miles from Earth, this picture ― famously known as "Pale Blue Dot" ― shows our planet as a tiny, blueish-white speck about halfway down the brown band on the right.

"Look again at that dot. That's here, that's home, that's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives … every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization … every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer … every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam." — Carl Sagan, 1994
O, CANADA! NASA O, CANADA! While there's a perfectly rational explanation for the aurora borealis ― per NASA, "reactions in the upper atmosphere in which oxygen and nitrogen molecules release photons of light" ― few events on Earth look and feel more like pure magic. Pictured: The "northern lights" over Canada, as seen from the International Space Station in September 2017. LOOK BACK IN WONDER NASA./Corbis via Getty Images LOOK BACK IN WONDER Apollo 17 astronaut Gene Cernan, the last human to walk on the moon, touches an American flag on the lunar surface, with planet Earth visible a few hundred thousand miles away, in December 1972.

"I realize that other people look at me differently than I look at myself," Cernan once said of his particular sort of fame, "for I am one of only twelve human beings to have stood on the moon. I have come to accept that, and the enormous responsibility it carries, but as for finding a suitable encore, nothing has ever come close."