Vintage Photos of Earth at Night—NASA’s Mercury-Atlas Mission

  • Released Wednesday, February 12th, 2020
  • Updated Wednesday, November 15th, 2023 at 12:43AM
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Scientists have observed Earth’s nightlights for more than four decades. Shown here, the photograph on the left was taken from NASA’s unmanned Mercury-Atlas 4 (MA-4) mission on September 13, 1961. High clouds (white) are mixed with Earth’s nightlights (yellow) on the right-hand side of the image, with Earth’s horizon on the left-hand side. The handwritten annotation at the top (that appears backwards in that photo) indicates this was the 348th photograph taken on the MA-4 mission. The photograph on the right, taken by MA-4, number 349, depicts an even darker scene of Earth at night. The white line in this photo is due to a film artifact.


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NASA, Earth at Night book