Unraveled Blue Marbles (2002)

Revisiting NASA’s The Blue Marble 2002[1] in the wake of another recently-released iconic photograph of space.

Denis Cosgrove describes NASA’s composite satellite images as “simultaneously ‘true’ representations and virtual spaces.”[2] Each hemisphere is stitched together using four months’ worth of satellite imagery[3], forming a representation of the earth inaccessible to human vision.

Here, each image is traversed, pixel-by-pixel, by a Hilbert curve. The curves are then unraveled, snakelike, revealing the digital strata of each composite.

  1. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Image by Reto Stöckli (land surface, shallow water, clouds). Enhancements by Robert Simmon (ocean color, compositing, 3D globes, animation). Data and technical support: MODIS Land Group; MODIS Science Data Support Team; MODIS Atmosphere Group; MODIS Ocean Group Additional data: USGS EROS Data Center (topography); USGS Terrestrial Remote Sensing Flagstaff Field Center (Antarctica); Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (city lights). (Source)
  2. Denis Cosgrove, Apollo’s Eye: A Cartographic Genealogy of the Earth in the Western Imagination (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001), p. 257.
  3. Laura Kurgan, Close Up at a Distance (New York: Zone Books, 2013), p. 12.