Last Updated: 03/22/2013*

This week, NASA unveiled imagery that is being described as the most amazing high definition image of Earth. Called "Blue Marble 2012," it was captured by Raytheon's Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite instrument aboard the recently launched Earth-observing satellite – “Suomi NPP” (Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership).

VIIRS provides scientists superior imagery and key environmental data, including land and sea surface temperature monitoring and cloud characterization. The data and imagery VIIRS provides will increase the accuracy of weather forecasting, which can be critically important, especially during natural weather disasters such as hurricanes.

VIIRS is the largest of five instruments onboard the recently renamed Suomi NPP satellite (formerly called the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project), that launched Oct. 28 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Its data, collected from channels across the electromagnetic spectrum, will be used to observe the Earth's surface, including fires, ice, ocean color, vegetation, clouds, and land and sea surface temperatures.

VIIRS and the NPP spacecraft are traveling at 16,640 miles per hour (eight kilometers per second), 512 miles (824 kilometers) from Earth.

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