NASA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite, which launched in February this year, has sent back its first beautiful haul. DSCOVR sits about a million miles away from us and keeps a constant eye on the sunlit side of Earth. While its primary mission is to monitor the solar wind, an on-board camera recently snapped an incredible series of images showing the moon passing in front of the Earth.
NASA released the series of images in one animated GIF on their website, and the image has been wowing users on various social media throughout the day:
DSCOVR and its EPIC camera
The instrument responsible for the amazing view of Earth and the moon is actually a high-powered camera known as EPIC (Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera), a four megapixel CCD camera that provides scientists with data on Earth’s atmosphere as the planet rotates. According to NASA, EPIC catches the Earth and the moon together like this only about twice a year.
Another exciting aspect of the image is that the side of the moon facing EPIC is actually the “dark side” – the side that is never visible to earthlings, and which wasn’t observed by humankind until the Soviet space program snapped photos of it in 1959.
NASA’s press release explains how EPIC gives us “natural color” images of Earth:
EPIC’s “natural color” images of Earth are generated by combining three separate monochrome exposures taken by the camera in quick succession. EPIC takes a series of 10 images using different narrowband spectral filters — from ultraviolet to near infrared — to produce a variety of science products. The red, green and blue channel images are used in these color images.
EPIC plans to begin regular observations in September, at which time NASA has said it will make available daily color images of Earth from the same vantage point.