While the general shape and layout of Earth has been known for centuries, images of our planetary home still hold the power to mesmerize even today -- but chances are, you've never seen it quite like this. Recently, NASA's newly-launched satellite, Suomi NPP, beamed back what may be the most amazingly detailed photograph of Earth ever captured, offering a stunning reminder of our world's extraordinary beauty in high-definition.
Set in orbit some 500 miles overhead, Suomi NPP was commissioned as an environmental observation satellite outfitted with a powerful imaging device called the Visible/Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite (VIISR), capable of producing HD images with a resolution of roughly 1 mile per pixel. After a series of passes over our planet earlier this month, the satellite returned photos that were later compiled into the crystal-clear shot seen above, NASA calls 'Blue Marble 2012.
The satellite responsible for the photo, originally known as the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project (NPP), was recently renamed in honor of the late Verner E. Suomi, a scientist NASA calls "the father of satellite meteorology."
In 1972, NASA's iconic 'Blue Marble' photograph helped spur the environmental movement when it was released, serving as a humbling reminder of Earth's fragility -- and in turn the fragility of existence for everything that inhabits it. Likewise, as technological advances allow for a clearer look back on our planet, that realization only becomes clearer as well.