Photography has had a profound impact on environmental attitudes and awareness over time. Below, we include and selectively annotate a few iconic photos from our mediography.
Now called Earthrise, the image is legendary; a postcard from the first souls to truly leave Earth behind. True, spacecraft had sent back views like this before, but this photo was the first of its kind taken by a spellbound human holding a camera. In it, Earth’s marbled beauty leaps from the darkness of space, amplified by the bleak, almost monochromatic lunar horizon in the foreground.
Blue Marble (7-12-1972)
This spectacular “blue marble” image is the most detailed true-color image of the entire Earth to date. Using a collection of satellite-based observations, scientists and visualizers stitched together months of observations of the land surface, oceans, sea ice, and clouds into a seamless, true-color mosaic of every square kilometer (.386 square mile) of our planet. These images are freely available to educators, scientists, museums, and the public.
Pale Blue Dot (7-2-1990)
This narrow-angle color image of the Earth, dubbed ‘Pale Blue Dot’, is a part of the first ever ‘portrait’ of the solar system taken by Voyager 1. The spacecraft acquired a total of 60 frames for a mosaic of the solar system from a distance of more than 4 billion miles (6.4 billion kilometers) from Earth and about 32 degrees above the ecliptic. From Voyager’s great distance Earth is a mere point of light, less than the size of a picture element even in the narrow-angle camera. Earth was a crescent only 0.12 pixel in size.
Coincidentally, Earth lies right in the center of one of the scattered light rays resulting from taking the image so close to the Sun. This blown-up image of the Earth was taken through three color filters — violet, blue and green — and recombined to produce the color image. The background features in the image are artifacts resulting from the magnification.