NASA's refrigerator-sized Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) launched in February this year, perched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, on a mission to warn Earth of incoming solar storms. Now five months later, the satellite has sent back its first image of the planet it was designed to protect — a beautiful color image of Earth.
The image was taken on July 6th, with DSCOVR's Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera, a four-megapixel CCD camera and telescope that bears the acronym EPIC. The camera is centered on Central America, with much of North and South America blanketed in cloud, and the shallow seas around the Caribbean showing up as turquoise streaks in a deeper blue.
The satellite's camera takes 10 images, each using a different narrowband filter that detects different kinds of light, from ultraviolet to near-infrared. The picture of Earth was created by combining the red, green, and blue channel images from this selection to create a picture of our planet as our eyes would see it — were we floating a million miles out in space.
Now the satellite's in place, its main job is to provide a warning system for Earth, helping us save public infrastructure by giving us 15 to 60 minutes of lead time ahead of severe space weather and geomagnetic storms. But while DSCOVR fulfills its important duty, EPIC will keep its eyes trained on our planet, capturing daily views of our sunny side, and providing important evidence for scientists on the ground. Expect to see NASA release more appropriately named EPIC images in the coming weeks.
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