Earth’s true colour has been revealed in amazing detail by a Japanese weather satellite.
From a distance of 22,240 miles (35,790km), the satellite shows what our planet looks like before any filters or image enhancements are made to the shot.
And the incredibly high resolution image also highlights stunning details on Earth including clouds, oceans and Australia’s vast desert.
The Japan Meteorological Agency’s Himawari-8 satellite has returned its first true colour image of Earth, seen here. It wascaptured using all 16 image bands from the satellite. Testing of Himawari-8’s systems, including related ground facilities, are reportedly going well
The image was taken by Japan’s Himawari-8 weather satellite, which launched on 7 October 2014 and is said to be the first true-colour image returned by the satellite to Earth.
A huge 11,000 by 11,000 pixel version is available on the Japan Meteorological Agency’s (JMA) website, although the makes advise downloading the file, rather than view it in a browser, because the image can take a long time to load.
The satellite was placed in a geostationary orbit above Earth, which means it stays above the same portion of the planet – in this case Australia, Japan and the other regions seen.
The instrument used to take the image was the Advanced Himawari Imager (AHI) on the spacecraft.
Himawari-8 is actually one of two twin satellites that will be used to provide continuous observation of the East Asia and Western Pacific regions. The next satellite, called Himawari-9, will launch in 2016.
The use of the words ‘true colour’ is a little bit of a misnomer, as this is not exactly what the planet would look like to the human eye.
Most images we see of Earth are colour-corrected to show how humans would see them. This image, however, was taken in multiple bands and shows the natural appearance of Earth from space.
The image is said to be ‘true colour’ as it shows what the planet would look like from space without a human eye. However, to us the planet appears slightly more blue and colourful. By brightening the picture, shown, more detail and features can be revealed
The stunning 11,000 x 11,000 pixel shot reveals a huge amount of detail. Here can be seen the north coast of Australia, with the sun’s light glinting in the Arafura Sea, while wisps of clouds can also be seen at the bottom of the image
HOW DID WATER GET TO EARTH?
Data from the Rosetta spacecraft taken from comet 67P suggests Earth’s water may have come from asteroids, not comets.
The Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis – or Rosina – on the spacecraft ‘sniffed’ the comet’s atmosphere as it remained in orbit and analysed its composition.
It found that water in the comet’s atmosphere had a different ratio of deuterium-to-hydrogen than water on Earth.
This may be the final nail in the coffin for the theory that comets brought water to Earth – and it may have finally proven that we have asteroids to thank for allowing life on our planet to thrive.
In the centre of the image, the sun’s glint reflecting off the ocean, just north of Australia, can be seen.
Further north, partially covered by clouds, is Japan and the rest of East Asia.
To the right is the vast Pacific Ocean, perhaps highlighting one of the most striking things about the image; namely, how much of our planet is covered by water.
Earth’s surface is 71 per cent water, with the other 29 per cent being the continents and islands.
A whopping 96.5 per cent of this water is contained in the ocean as salt water, with the remaining 3.5 per cent being freshwater lakes and ice.
But despite covering the vast majority of the surface, water accounts for just 0.02 per cent of our planet’s mass as, relative to the planet itself, the oceans are not very deep.
Where exactly all this water came from has been a cause of much debate in recent years.
As Earth was scorchingly hot early in its life, it’s widely believed that water was brought to Earth by space rocks: asteroids or comets.
A few weeks ago, however, results from Esa’s Rosetta mission indicated that the water contained on the comet it is orbiting, 67P, differs from that on Earth.
This supports the theory that water was brought to Earth by asteroids, not comets – although scientists note that further findings and studies will be needed to confirm the theory.
Himawari-8, illustration shown, is actually one of two twin satellites that will be used to provide continuous observation of the East Asia and Western Pacific regions. The next satellite, Himawari-9, will launch in 2016
Other images of Earth, such as Nasa’s famous Blue Marble images (Western Hemisphere shown), use image enhancement and colour correction to show what the planet would look like to the human eye from space.