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NASA Blue Marble Project


NASA Earth ReferenceInterested in making realistic Earth models with stunning topography and recent climate changes? NASA, the ever popular space program has once again amazed us with high resolution photographs of our great planet Earth.

Below are excerpts from the official web reference where you download monthly references of the earth ready to be mapped to your world's model:


Blue Marble: Next Generation improves the techniques for turning satellite data into digital images. Among the key improvements is greater detail in areas that usually appear very dark to the satellite (because a large amount of sunlight is being absorbed), for example in dense tropical forests. The ability to create a digital image that provides great detail in darker regions without “washing out” brighter regions, like glaciers, snow-covered areas, and deserts is one of the great challenges of visualizing satellite data. The new version also improves image clarity, and gives highly reflective land surfaces, such as salt flats, a more realistic appearance.


Those who intend to use the Blue Marble: Next Generation in their own publications or projects should be aware of areas that still require improvement. Areas of open water still show some “noise.” In tropical lowlands, cloud cover during the rainy season can be so extensive that obtaining a cloud-free view of every pixel of the area for a given month may not be possible. Deep oceans are not included in the source data; the creator of the Blue Marble uses a uniform blue color for deep ocean regions, and this value has not been completely blended with observations of shallow water in coastal areas. The lack of blending may, in some cases, make the transition between shallow coastal water and deep ocean appear unnatural. Finally, the data do not completely distinguish between snow and cloud cover in areas with short-term snow cover (less than three or four months). This problem may be resolved in the future through the use of a more sophisticated snow mask.

You can learn more at by visiting the Monthly Reference and the Blue Marble Project!

About Author

Daniel LaBarge

Blender Artist & Contributor at ID Studios [] Web Designer & Programmer at MonsterWeb []


  1. Great post, but one little problem. Every program that I use crashes when I try to load such a HUMONGO image. Blender, IE, Opera, GIMP, Preview, all crash in a matter of seconds.

  2. As marked by the dates on the blue marble project page, these images are kind of old -- so one could validly say "hey, I've seen this. i've been there and done that." But oh what that person would be missing out on if they skipped this post! (I almost did, then I remembered I'm obsessed :D ) Anyhow, the length of time that the project has been going on has totally sweetened the deal. I've got a machine that can handle these images, and maybe I could make an animated movie where the maps blend from one month to the next! How sweet would THAT be!? It's definately not something I could have done when this project started since there was only one "month" to choose from. Thanks, Blender Nation!

  3. Sovereignncc-e on

    @DukeAndrey, I can sympathize fully. I spent an overnight downloading the July dataset only to discover that the GIMP crashes when you try to open a enormous images like this! I had to open it in Photoshop on my father's computer:(. I guess that it is due to the GIMP's idology of catering more to web design rather than digital photography (where 10000x10000+ images are not all that big). We can only hope that they will fix the problem. However, I have not found the really high resolution Blue Marble data to be too useful anyway. It is fun to look at, but it is really too big to be used as a texture for a planet, but it isn't high-quality enough to be used for any close-ups. For close-ups, I have actually found that Yahoo maps, amazingly, has the best data. They have 1m color resolution satellite data for the whole US (I think). Unfortunately, it is a bit hard to get...

  4. I am very frustrated with the failure of the larger resolution images to display correctly. Time and again when trying to view these high-res scans in Blender or Photoshop, all i can view is part of the lower tip of Africa, some ocean around it and then Antarctica below. This really SUCKS! I'm beginning to think that Nasa is saving these high-res pictures in a faulty way.

  5. Most software tries to load the images straight into memory and leaves the memory management to the operating system. This is all fine and nice as long as the image fits in memory, but once the image is bigger then that you need smart software. Photoshop has handled this issue from day 1. It only loads squares that you have on screen, and when you zoom out it only gets the scaled part into memory.
    Ofcourse at some size point the pixel no longer has a unique address. For 32 bits machines this is 4294967296 pixels, that's a 40000 x 50000 pixel RGBA image. I guess.

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