Earth and Moon | A Different Viewpoint

Position a satellite camera 1 million miles from Earth directly toward the Sun, 4x the distance to the Moon. Keep it at that location and make it stare toward Earth. Eventually, this happens.


The Moon orbits Earth in a 5˚ tilted plane relative to Earth’s orbit plane. Rarely does the Moon pass directly between the camera location and the Earth. It happened twice in the past year. This pass was captured on 5 July 2016 by the camera on the satellite. It did so once before on 16 July 2015 shortly after the satellite became operational. The Moon passed behind Earth on 27 Sept 2015 as captured in this video. A solar eclipse was captured on 9 March 2016 as the umbra of the Moon’s shadow crossed the Pacific.

These views of Earth are provided by NOAA’s DSCOVR satellite. It is located at a point where the gravitational pull of Earth and Sun on the craft are equal and opposite. This stable location serves as an early warning site for geo-magnetic storms from the Sun. The Space Weather Prediction Center will begin using DSCOVR data on 27 July 2016 to monitor conditions and make predictions.

In much the same way distant off-shore sea buoys serve as early warning beacons for tsunamis, this satellite gives Earth 15-20 minutes of warning for solar storms that might affect Earth.



Recent true color views of Earth are available at this site. You can navigate forward and backward in time by clicking the right and left margins of the screen.

Scientists with the DSCOVR mission have compiled a video from over 3000 images of Earth taken by the EPIC camera on board during the year from July 2015 to July 2016. Notice how the tilt of the poles changes between summer and winter.



14 thoughts on “Earth and Moon | A Different Viewpoint

  1. Very good, Jim. I hadn’t even realized that DSCOVR was on station! This is a prime example of a worthy government project that benefits not just us, but the whole world.

  2. My question is, should a massive storm occur, what can we do with only 15-20 minutes of warning? They predict a super CME is overdue (last one 1859) that could knock out the electrical grid and affect satellites. How can we prepare for that? I shudder to think of the chaos.

    • I tried to find some answers to your question. It seems there are some backup systems, or alternate types of systems in place to help offset the likelihood of damages. But widespread damage from the strong one you refer to probably can’t be stopped. It’s a threat we live with. And, chaos indeed will be a problem on all levels.

  3. Very fine post Jim. I found it interesting to read the gravity on the satellite from the sun and earth is the same but opposite. As for your comment above; it seems we already have enough chaos, I can’t imagine what would happen if the power went off in any large North American city.

  4. Fascinating Jim, I wonder how DSCOVR stays in orbit the time it’s required to fulfill its mission? I wonder just how long will it stay in its path, and to what extent it’s reprogrammable, or does it have to replaced eventually precisely because of these solar storms:

    “During storms, the currents in the ionosphere, as well as the energetic particles that precipitate into the ionosphere add energy in the form of heat that can increase the density and distribution of density in the upper atmosphere, causing extra drag on satellites in low-earth orbit. The local heating also creates strong horizontal variations in the in the ionospheric density that can modify the path of radio signals and create errors in the positioning information provided by GPS. While the storms create beautiful aurora, they also can disrupt navigation systems such as the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) and create harmful geomagnetic induced currents (GICs) in the power grid and pipelines.”-

    • DSCOVR is well above any of the atmospheric effects of drag mentioned in the quote. It is vulnerable to the energetic particles but is probably built with safeguards to protect from most of those. It is in a place where the pull of gravity from the sun and earth are equal and opposite. So, keeping it in position is rather easy requiring very little fuel.

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