Nasa's Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite has returned its first "EPIC" image -- a detailed view of the entire sunlit side of Earth taken from 1.6 million kilometres.
The colour images from the Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) were generated by combining three separate images.
"The high quality of the EPIC images exceeded all of our expectations in resolution," said Adam Szabo, DSCOVR project scientist at Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
"The images clearly show desert sand structures, river systems and complex cloud patterns. There will be a huge wealth of new data for scientists to explore."
The observatory with real-time solar wind monitoring capabilities will enhance the accuracy and lead time of space weather alerts.
Data from EPIC will be used to measure ozone and aerosol levels in the atmosphere, cloud height, vegetation properties and the ultraviolet reflectivity of Earth. It will also create dust and ash maps of the planet.
The satellite launched in February recently reached its planned orbit at the first Lagrange point or L1, about one million miles from Earth toward the sun from where it has clicked the images.
Compared to the pale blue dot image of Earth taken by a distant Voyager in 1990 from 5.9 billion kilometres away, showing our planet as a blurred dot, the new picture reveals Earth in incredible detail as part of the ecosystem.
"As a former astronaut who's been privileged to view the Earth from orbit, I want everyone to be able to see and appreciate our planet as an integrated, interacting system," said Nasa Administrator Charlie Bolden.
The initial images have a bluish tint from the scattering of sunlight by air molecules.
The team will work to remove this effect and to emphasize land features.
Once DSCOVR begins regular data acquisition, new images will be available every day, 12 to 36 hours after taken by EPIC. These will be available freely once posted on a dedicated web page.
The DSCOVR project is a partnership between Nasa, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the US Air Force.