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​"Epic" portrait of Earth from a million miles away is just the start

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Earth as seen on July 6, 2015 from a distance of one million miles by a NASA scientific camera aboard the Deep Space Climate Observatory spacecraft. NASA

This spectacular glamour shot of our planet is just a taste of things to come, according to NASA, which released the picture from the DSCOVR satellite Monday.

The picture was taken with the Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) aboard DSCOVR, which stands for Deep Space Climate Observatory. Launched in February (after a couple failed attempts), the satellite represents a partnership between NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Air Force to supply real-time solar wind modeling, measure ozone levels and send back an unprecedented trove of images just like this one.

"This first DSCOVR image of our planet demonstrates the unique and important benefits of Earth observation from space," said NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden in a statement. "DSCOVR's observations of Earth, as well as its measurements and early warnings of space weather events caused by the sun, will help every person to monitor the ever-changing Earth, and to understand how our planet fits into its neighborhood in the solar system."

Hovering in orbit 1 million miles away from the Earth, between it and the sun at all times, DSCOVR has a unique perspective on the sunlit parts of the planet. Starting in September, the satellite will beam home pictures every single day for the life of the mission.

NASA hasn't had this view of Earth since the Apollo era, NASA told CBS News, and even then, pictures from the moon were taken (with film cameras) from a mere 240,000 miles away. Other crafts have taken images of Earth as they headed to their destinations, snapshots on the way to somewhere else.

This is the most distant image NASA has ever taken of the Earth, and it's amazingly clear.

"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."

When President Barack Obama saw the image, he tweeted, "Just got this new blue marble photo from @NASA. A beautiful reminder that we need to protect the only planet we have."

Amanda Schupak

Amanda Schupak is the science and technology editor at CBSNews.com

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