There are no real pictures of Earth. At least, not yet. The technology to take a clear and accurate picture of our planet from space doesn’t exist – or at least, it hasn’t been invented yet. Why is that? Is it because we don’t have the technology? Or is it something more complicated than that? In this blog post, we will explore the possibilities behind why there are no real pictures of Earth. Stay tuned!
Some Reasons Why There Are No Real Pictures Of Earth
“To get the un-retouched image above, NASA had to crank up the contrast and brightness of an original picture of Earth taken in 2003 by one of its satellites. The new version is closer to what we would see if we were only able to look at our planet with our own eyes.”
If you Google “pictures of earth from space,” most of the results that turn up will be pictures like this:
This isn’t a trick — we really can’t take a clear picture of Earth from space (at least not with any equipment we’ve launched) without some serious processing. There are two reasons for this: position and time.
- As you probably know, humans orbit around the Earth, which means that the Earth is essentially moving in front of us all the time. This movement makes it incredibly difficult to take a picture without some distortion — if you could capture an image of the Earth at any moment in time (with no movement), your camera would see things like rivers and roads converging because while some things are moving towards you, others are moving away; this can’t be resolved without special processing.
- The second reason we don’t have clear images of Earth from space is that our planet looks like a blurry blob when viewed from far away. It’s not until an object gets about 100 miles high that its view of Earth becomes relatively unobstructed by atmospheric drag. We did get this unprocessed photo from the International Space Station, but because it’s in low Earth orbit (about 100 miles up), you’re looking at a very small piece of the Earth.
Here are some other reasons we can’t get a clear shot:
- Image positioning is incredibly difficult in space -there’s no GPS system in space to tell the satellites where they are with respect to the Earth. Without knowing this crucial detail, any picture becomes distorted.
- The resolution on cameras currently used for satellite imaging isn’t high enough to capture things like island chains and mountain ranges without serious processing, which requires knowing your precise location and reference points on land masses, something that’s very difficult when orbiting constantly.
- To get the un-retouched image above, NASA had to crank up the contrast and brightness of an original picture of Earth taken in 2003 by one of its satellites. The new version is closer to what we would see if we were only able to look at our planet with our own eyes.
- We have plenty of pictures of Earth from space — but most are composites or models showing how various landmasses might line up based on where they are in relation to each other.
6 Benefits Of Photographing The Earth From Space
The advancements in satellite technology provide an excellent platform for studying Earth from space. The main advantages are the vast opportunities for discovery and total access to all parts of the globe. Benefits from these orbital observations include better weather forecasts, advanced warning of natural disasters, improved monitoring of forest loss and degradation, enhanced management of agriculture and fisheries, improved transportation networks, lower-cost commercial services, and more informed public. Here is a list with six benefits of photographing the earth from space:
Global climate change detection –
A Stereo Image taken by ESA on July 23rd, 2002 shows that Sentinel-1A has already acquired the capability to monitor the decline of Arctic Sea ice. Benefits include better forecasting where there might be flooding better estimation of sea levels due to melting glaciers and how they will affect coasts.
Predicting volcanic eruptions –
If a volcano is actively erupting then it is possible that satellites will provide more insight into what kind of eruption is happening by using thermal imaging (which shows temperature differences on Earth’s surface). The advantage here is that ash-plume height can also be determined which makes it easier for pilots to determine their flight paths.
Forest loss monitoring –
Monitoring deforestation has always been difficult due to the vast number of spots across the world where deforestation could potentially take place. With orbiting satellites, it is now much easier because every patch of land, small or large, can be monitored using a high-resolution camera. It is also possible to determine the change in vegetation over time which allows scientists to study the impact of deforestation on climate and ecosystems.
Monitoring agriculture –
Farmers all around the world will benefit from better monitoring capabilities for crop health. In many countries, it is difficult to fund regular satellite imaging so researchers have developed other methods such as airplane measurements and ground sensing equipment. Both options are costly so being able to predict potential disasters would allow farmers to take preventative measures before a crisis occurs.
Estimating sea ice thickness –
Since sea ice builds up throughout winter due to freshwater freezing over oceans, knowing how thick this frozen layer is could help with forecasting during hurricane season because the amount of ice will affect the intensity and strength of a hurricane. A satellite can measure how much sea ice is present by using microwaves. The advantage here is that it can be done at any time or location along with measuring thickness, which provides more data than just knowing the minimum and maximum sea ice coverage over time.
Space-based Information –
It is also important to note that orbiting satellites provide an excellent platform for communication. Many people around the world rely on communication signals from polar-orbiting satellites, which makes them essential for communication purposes in remote areas. Satellite internet services could become more widespread due to this technology having huge capabilities because it can provide broadband speeds to rural areas all around the globe where communication was previously very difficult or impossible.
How To See Real Pictures Of Earth
Ever see a NASA photo of the Earth from space and think it looks fake? Well, those pictures are real! And now you can make your own.
In order to take pictures of the earth, you will need a few things.
First, a camera that takes movies. This is important because movie cameras have much higher resolutions than still cameras. You need that high resolution because each frame in a movie has to store as much information as a still picture does. Nowadays, it is very easy to find a camera with at least 320×240 resolution (versions go up to 800×600 or so). If you want more than one window open on your computer screen, select 640×480 or possibly even 800×600 – anything greater than this starts to lose quality.
A tripod or some sort of camera mount that allows your camera to stay level is very helpful. You want the earth to show up as a circle, not an oval (which will happen if you don’t keep it pointing at exactly the same spot on the planet all night long).
Second, you need a place far enough away from city lights so that the stars are visible; this is important because even though they are dim, light pollution around cities can spoil the view of stars (and hence planets) by washing out background stars with stray light. The further you get from city lights, the more stars become visible – which means more detail on Earth’s surface becomes available for photos too. If you’re in a car driving along some dark country road, the car’s headlights illuminate the landscape up to about a mile ahead; if you’re standing still with your camera and tripod, you’ll be able to see much more (keep in mind that not all of these things apply to point-and-shoot cameras – which one will depend on the model).
Third, you need time. With most movie cameras, shooting at night means shooting during “the blue hour”, when shooting between sunset and full darkness causes bluer light from the sky to register in your exposures than it would during the full dark. It takes about an hour for this transition from daylight color to full darkness. You can also try taking pictures just after sunset or just before dawn – when there is no blue in the sky at all – but then you have to deal with the problem of bright earth in a dark sky, which is much harder. You need enough light from the ground to illuminate your landscape without destroying the detail on the planet itself.