Yesterday, NASA released a new high-definition image of Earth titled Blue Marble 2012.
The image, which is actually a composite of multiple images, was taken by the VIIRS instrument aboard the Suomi NPP Earth-observing satellite, which, according to NASA, was created to “observe many facets of our changing Earth.”
A few curious facts about Earth:
1. It’s packed full of life. There’s an estimated 8.7 million species on Planet Earth, according to at least one study. Some estimates put this number upwards of 100 million, and we’ve just discovered 46 potentially-new species. Who knows, maybe the Yeti will be next. Oh, and bonus: Earth is the only planet known to support life.
2. It’s not a perfect sphere. It’s an oblate spheroid. That means it’s flattened at the poles and bulges at the equator.
3. It’s about 4.5 billion years old. Human beings have only been around for about 100,000 to 200,000 years. We’re a tiny blip in Earth’s history.
4. It hasn’t always been like this. In the beginning, Earth was mostly molten rock. And, coincidentally, that’s how it will end. In fact, the Earth we know today — temperate, life-bearing, ocean-filled — isn’t actually the norm. That’s one of the things that makes searching for extraterrestrial life so difficult. Just because a planet isn’t life-bearing now, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be in the future, or wasn’t in the past.
5. Nothing is forever. Earth won’t always be around. There are many, many ways our planet could meet its end, but one way is certain. Our Sun will become a red giant and (basically) eat everything around it before turning into a nebula. In about 5 billion years.
So, enjoy it while you can.