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The Best Photo Of Earth Ever Taken

The first thing you notice is the rust.

A stunning new photograph of Earth taken by a Russian weather satellite appears to show that our planet is, well, a bit corroded.

Actually, the rust appears because the camera that took the photograph combines data from four wavelengths of light -- three visible and one infrared -- which means that vegetation is turned into the orange color that first catches your eye.

But we've all seen the famous "big blue marble" shots of Earth. What sets this photograph apart is its clarity.

It's the highest-resolution image of our planet that has ever been taken -- 121 megapixels (that's one kilometer per pixel, for those of you who are counting) -- and the fact that it's one single shot, not a series of individual photographs glued together to form a whole.

Credit Russia's Elektro-L weather satellite, which was launched in January 2011 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and took the new photo while orbiting 36,000 kilometers above the equator.

As Gizmodo notes:
This is the first major spacecraft fully developed in post-Soviet Russia, developed by NPO Lavochkin for the Russian Federal Space Agency. This is a major step in the country's aerospace industry, after two decades of trouble developing anything new and living from the past glories of the Soviet system (which are great on their own right).

One of the cool things about Electro-L is that it is in a geostationary orbit. That means its speed perfectly matches the speed of the Earth rotating below it, allowing it to take such a gorgeous photograph from what is basically a fixed point.

If you want to get up-close-and-personal with this photograph, you can find a zoomable version here.

The Russians also released a time-lapse video of the Northern Hemisphere that uses a number of photographs taken by the Electro-L:

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