New time-lapse shows how Earth has changed since iconic ‘Blue Marble’ | Science & Tech News

Fifty years after Apollo 17 astronauts sent back an iconic image of Earth, capturing the awe of the cosmos and fragility of our planet like never before, time-lapse images have been released to mark the anniversary.

The Blue Marble, as it came to be known, was snapped on 7 December 1972, and at the time showcased an unprecedented level of detail.

With clouds swirling over the African continent in full sunlight, surrounded by the vivid blues of Earth’s oceans, the planet stood out like a beacon amid the deep, darkness of space.

The iconic 'Blue Marble' image from 1972. Pic: NASA
The iconic ‘Blue Marble’ image from 1972. Pic: NASA

In partnership with Planetary Visions and NASA, which ran the Apollo 17 mission, Living Earth Orchestra (LEO) has released unique time-lapse images to show how the planet has changed.

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Since 2015, NASA has been operating a deep space observatory equipped with a camera called EPIC.

It’s one million miles from the Earth and has been taking Blue Marble-style images every two hours.

But today, NASA commissioned EPIC to take images every 13 minutes for three hours, creating an almost real-time view of the planet.

The results can be seen in the video below.

LEO has been developing technology to broadcast such images of Earth anywhere, all the time, and there are plans to build a constellation of satellites to show off the planet day and night.

Chief scientist Dr Jan-Peter Muller, emeritus professor of image understanding and remote sensing at UCL, said the images would inspire a new generation to care for the future of Earth, just as the Blue Marble did.

“We reveal both the wonder of and damage to the Earth’s ecosystems. When you see what is happening, it is a compelling wake-up call,” he said.

“We believe this is a vital new tool for all those concerned and responsible.”

LEO’s objective was to “make the state of the Earth visible at global and local scale”, but Dr Muller said it had “taken many years to bring together the necessary technology”.

The hope is that the images will not only show how the planet has changed since 1972, but how it could change in years ahead.

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