NASA Releases the World’s First “Global Selfie”

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
May 22 2014 2:51 PM

NASA Releases the World’s First “Global Selfie”

Can you spot yourself?

Image by NASA.

To commemorate Earth Day this year, NASA asked the world to take a selfie. More than 50,000 people did, and the result is a massive, 3.2 gigapixel mosaic of us, blended with weather satellite imagery taken at the same time.

According to NASA, “People on every continent—113 countries and regions in all—posted selfies. From Antarctica to Yemen, Greenland to Guatemala, Micronesia to the Maldives, Pakistan, Poland, Peru—and on.” 

Screen shot 2014-05-22 at 1.07.35 PM

Image by NASA.


The weather image blended with photos from the ground was taken by what’s quite likely the most advanced weather satellite we’ve ever had: the Suomi NPP polar orbiting satellite, launched in 2011 and now the primary high resolution Earth-observing arrow in NOAA’s weather-forecasting quiver. This satellite provides “enhanced true color” images of the Earth in 10 color channels (not just the standard RGB). The noticeable difference helps scientists improve forecasts for snowstorms, tornado outbreaks, and hurricanes. The satellite orbits the Earth every 102 minutes.

Here’s the image that Suomi NPP captured on Earth Day, before it was blended with your selfies:


Image by NASA.

While many people think of NASA in terms of interplanetary exploration and mind-bending photos of distant galaxies, the agency’s in the midst of a flurry of satellite launches focused on Earth. If all goes to plan, five major new satellites will be in orbit by the end of 2014, the most new eyes on our home planet in a single year in more than a decade.

An interactive explorer of the mosaic is available via GigaPan.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Eric Holthaus is a meteorologist who writes about weather and climate for Slate’s Future Tense. Follow him on Twitter.



The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

Does Your Child Have “Sluggish Cognitive Tempo”? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

The First Case of Ebola in America Has Been Diagnosed in Dallas

Why Indians in America Are Mad for India’s New Prime Minister

Damned Spot

Now Stare. Don’t Stop.

The perfect political wife’s loving gaze in campaign ads.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

The GOP Senate Candidate in Iowa Doesn’t Want Voters to Know Just How Conservative She Really Is

Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD

The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  News & Politics
Sept. 30 2014 5:19 PM Social Outcasts Republican candidates are retreating from debates on abortion, gay marriage, and contraception.
Building a Better Workplace
Sept. 30 2014 1:16 PM You Deserve a Pre-cation The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.
Sept. 30 2014 1:48 PM Thrashed Florida State’s new president is underqualified and mistrusted. But here’s how he can turn it around.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 4:45 PM Steven Soderbergh Is Doing Some Next-Level Work on The Knick
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 6:43 PM Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Is Skipping Windows 9
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 30 2014 6:44 PM Ebola Was Already Here How the United States contains deadly hemorrhagic fevers.
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.