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NASA releases new 'Blue Marble' image of Earth

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This newNASA / NOAA / Suomi VPP / VIRS / Norman Kuring

NASA's "Blue Marble" image is one of the best-known high-resolution pictures of our planet. It's even included as one of the default images for Apple's iPhone. Now NASA has released a brand-new "Blue Marble 2012," based on image data from the VIIRS instrument aboard Suomi NPP, the most recently launched Earth-observing satellite.

The Suomi spacecraft was known as the NPOESS Preparatory Project, or NPP, when it was launched last October. This week it was renamed the Suomi NPP — or Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership — to honor the late Verner. E. Suomi, a professor at the University of Wisconsin who became known as the father of satellite meteorology. The $1.5 billion mission is a partnership involving NASA as well as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Air Force.

Suomi is the first of a new generation of satellites that will provide data for climate research as well as weather prediction. It carries five instruments on board, and the biggest and most important of the five is the Visible/Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite, or VIIRS. This composite image was built up from swaths of surface image data collected on Jan. 4.

To learn more about Suomi, check out the mission's website. For a huge 8,000-by-8,000-pixel version of Blue Marble 2012, go to the NASA Goddard Photo and Video Flickr gallery. And for a daily dose of Earth imagery, including more pictures from VIIRS, click on over to NASA's Earth Observatory.