A newly released image from NASA shows off our home planet from an unfamiliar angle — our iconic blue marble, snapped by a satellite that circles the Arctic, is arrayed in frosty white. This latest portrait of Earth from NASA’s Suomi NPP satellite puts the icy Arctic in the center, showing the ice and clouds that cover our planet’s northern pole. The newly launched Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (S-NPP) satellite was blasted into space on Oct. 28, 2011 and it circled the Earth 15 times to capture the visual data used for the stunning picture. It’s the first satellite designed to collect data to improve short-term weather forecasts and increase understanding of long-term climate change.
Arctic sea ice covers the very top of the planet, stretching across the Arctic Ocean and covering the North Pole. And although it looks like there’s plenty of it, there’s not nearly as much ice as there was in decades past. Since satellites started sending data back in 1979, scientists have watched the total area of annual Arctic sea ice cover steadily decline. It reached the lowest extent ever recorded in 2007, and although it changes from year to year, the ice has continued to stay at historic lows.
See a full-sized version of the image above here.
(Image credit: NASA/GSFC/Suomi NPP)
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