When we think of Earth, this iconic image of the “Blue Marble” immediately comes to mind.
We’ll call the above image “Blue Marble I”.
The Blue Marble is a famous photograph of the Earth, taken on December 7, 1972, by the crew of the Apollo 17 spacecraft, at a distance of about 45,000 kilometers (28,000 miles). It is one of the most iconic, and among the most widely distributed images in human history….
The image is one of the few to show an almost fully illuminated Earth disk (slightly gibbous), as the astronauts had the Sun behind them when they took the image. To the astronauts, Earth had the appearance and size of a glass marble, hence the name.
The photograph was taken about 5 hours and 6 minutes after launch of the Apollo 17 mission, and about 1 hour 54 minutes after the spacecraft left its parking orbit around the Earth, to begin its trajectory to the Moon.
Or maybe that’s not the Blue Marble you have in mind. Maybe it’s this iconic image of a more vividly-colored Blue Marble which was released by NASA in 2002. Let’s call it “Blue Marble II”.
Blue Marble II is so familiar to us in part because it was the default image on the first iPhone.
But some sharp-eyed geeks discovered “anomalies” in Blue Marble II, specifically duplicate clouds, as you can see in a cropped section of Blue Marble II (below):
The discovery of duplicate clouds has led to accusations that not only is the 2002 image (Blue Marble II) a fake, the original Apollo 17 image (Blue Marble I) was likely a fake as well. That, in turn, has led some to question whether everything NASA did and said was fake. See, for example, this post from Plane Not A Planet blog.
The problem is that, in the years after the first Blue Marble photo was taken by Apollo 17, NASA has released many Blue Marbles, “Blue Marble II” being one of the best known and most popular.
As NASA explains about the 2002 “Blue Marble II”:
- Data Date: February 8, 2002
- Visualization Date: February 8, 2002