Research, Technology

Scientists have solved the mystery of why the Earth glows evenly in images from space

In December 1972, the crew of the spacecraftApollo 17 gave mankind one of the most famous photographs of the Earth called "The Blue Marble". The picture was taken from a distance of 29 thousand kilometers from the surface of the planet. At that moment, the Sun was behind the astronauts, thanks to which the Earth was well lit. The photograph is now in the public domain and is used in many works to depict the Earth from space. The picture is impressive, but for more than fifty years it has puzzled scientists - why is our planet so evenly lit? Indeed, due to the different reflectivity of the northern and southern hemispheres, one part of the Earth should glow brighter than the other. Recently, this phenomenon has finally been found an explanation.

Photograph of Earth from space taken in 1972

Interesting fact: the photo of the Blue Marble was taken 5 years laterhours 6 minutes after the launch of Apollo 17. Authorship is attributed not to one person, but to the entire crew of the mission: Eugene Cernan, Ronaldo Evans and Harrison Schmitt. The picture was taken on a 70mm Hasselblad camera with a Zeiss lens.

The difference between the northern and southern hemispheres of the Earth

For many years scientists have been convinced thatthe northern and southern hemispheres should look different. Seen from a relatively close distance below the clouds, indeed, the northern hemisphere is much better illuminated by sunlight than the southern. This is due to the fact that the hemispheres of our planet have different albedo is the reflectivity of the surface.The northern hemisphere looks brighter because it reflects light more due to the presence of more land. The southern hemisphere is covered by an ocean that absorbs light, making it appear darker.

Northern (left) and southern (right) hemispheres of the Earth. The image shows that there is much less land in the Southern Hemisphere

Recently, scientists announced that the core of the Earth began to rotate in the opposite direction. About whether this is true or not, we told in this material.

Why does the Earth glow in photographs?

But in a photograph of Earth from space in 1972, bothhemispheres of the planet appear equally bright. Scientists could not find an explanation for this phenomenon for more than fifty years. It was only recently that the secret was revealed - the answer was published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

According to scientists, the surface of the Earth is covered with water by 70%

As part of a new scientific work, researchers OrHadas and Yochai Kaspi set out to find out if the brightness of the southern hemisphere as seen from space could be explained by thunderclouds. To do this, they studied the global weather database, which has been collected since 1950. It turned out that strong storms often occur in the southern hemisphere of our planet. They are accompanied by an abundance of clouds, which can reflect sunlight much better than the surface of the water. According to scientists, the land area in the northern hemisphere is twice as large as in the southern. But the abundance of clouds in the southern hemisphere compensates for this difference and the albedo indicators become almost equal.

We found that the albedo of clouds,arising from severe storms over the southern hemisphere, is a highly accurate compensator for a large land area in the northern hemisphere, and thus the symmetry is maintained, said climatologist Or Hadas.

Secrets of the planet Earth

So, the uniform glow of the Earth in the photographsfrom space now there is an explanation. The northern hemisphere of our planet looks bright because it is covered with a large amount of land. The southern hemisphere does not lag behind in brightness because there are often strong curtains with a dense layer of clouds that reflect sunlight well.

Storms in the ocean greatly affect the appearance of the Earth from space

However, in the future, the difference in brightness between the twohemispheres of the Earth can appear and become very noticeable. Computer models have shown that due to global warming, the frequency and strength of storms in the northern and southern hemispheres may change. However, scientists cannot say exactly what these changes will be. However, observations in this area could help researchers develop technologies to keep the Earth habitable for as long as possible.

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Apparently, in the future, scientists will have to find outa lot of new things about the Earth. One of the most important discoveries was made in 2023 - it was found out that an unknown structure is contained inside the core of our planet. My colleague Andrei Zhukov spoke in detail about this discovery in this article. I strongly recommend reading!