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NASA's 'impossibly beautiful' photo of Earth
The space agency releases an ultra high-def update to its iconic photo set. Feast your eyes
 
NASA's new "Blue Marble" image is a digital composite of several photos taken by a satellite as it zoomed around the Earth four times on January 4.
NASA's new "Blue Marble" image is a digital composite of several photos taken by a satellite as it zoomed around the Earth four times on January 4.
NASA/NOAA/GSFC/Suomi NPP/VIIRS/Norman Kuring

The photograph: NASA's "Blue Marble" series has delighted space lovers with photos of the Earth from above since the first image was taken aboard Apollo 17 in 1972. Since then, the U.S. space agency has regularly added to its collection with new iconic images of our cloud-wrapped planet. On Wednesday NASA unveiled its latest photo, "Blue Marble 2012," calling it the "most amazing high-definition image of Earth ever taken." (Have a look at right and below — or click here for an ultra high-res version.) Captured by the $1.5 billion Suomi NPP orbital satellite, the stunningly detailed image is actually a composite stitched together from photos collected as the satellite flew around the planet four times on January 4. The many photos were then digitized into a single image, with the goal of reflecting Earth in its true colors.

The reaction: Our planet looks "impossibly beautiful," says Robert T. Gonzalez at io9. But the photograph, "gorgeous as it is, is actually too beautiful to be real" — after all, it's a fake, "technically speaking." Regardless, this is a great reminder of why an earlier "Blue Marble" image serves as the default wallpaper for Apple's iPhones, says Mark Memmott at NPR. When the first "Blue Marble" photograph was released, "we all suddenly saw the world in a much different way." The newest version is equally stunning. Take a look:

 

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