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Holiday calendar: 'Earthrise' updated, 45 years later

Ernie Wright / NASA

Apollo 8's famous "Earthrise" image of 1968 has been re-created by blending high-resolution lunar imagery from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, Earth's surface as depicted in NASA's Blue Marble data set, and cloud imagery captured on Dec. 24, 1968, by the Environmental Science Services Administration 7 satellite.

Forty-five years after humanity's first journey around another celestial body, researchers have re-created Apollo 8's precise course to produce a high-resolution re-creation of "Earthrise," one of history's most famous images from space.

A team of experts — including John Keller, project scientist for NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter; NASA producer/visualizer Ernie Wright; and space historian Andrew Chaikin — used images of the moon from Apollo 8 and LRO to determine where the Apollo spacecraft was pointed at what time. Their findings are laid out in a video that reconstructs the chain of events that occurred in lunar orbit on Dec. 24, 1968.

To add to the occasion, NASA re-created the "Earthrise" picture — incorporating modern-day lunar imagery from LRO, Earth imagery from NASA's Blue Marble data set, and the cloud patterns documented by the Environmental Science Services Administration 7 satellite on that history-making day. (Use the Flash-based slider-bar gizmo on NASA's Web page to compare the original with the re-creation.)

The Earthrise re-creation is well-timed — not only to mark the anniversary, but to mesh with our Cosmic Log Space Advent Calendar, which has been celebrating imagery of Earth from space on a daily basis during December.

This year's edition will close out on Christmas Day with an up-to-date view of our beautiful blue planet. In the meantime, catch up on the calendar goodies you may have missed, and check in with The Atlantic's Hubble Advent CalendarZooniverse's Advent calendar and the Galileo's Pendulum Science Advent Calendar.

The year 1968 was a tumultuous time marked by war, assassination, civil unrest and deep political division.  As the year came to a close, the flight of Apollo 8 gave the nation an occasion to soar. NBC's Brian Williams reports.

Andrew Chaikin narrates a video that reconstructs the circumstances for Apollo 8's "Earthrise" pictures.

Experts discuss the new visualizations of "Earthrise" during a Google+ Hangout.

Check out the top space shots of 2013 — including astronaut antics, a surprised frog and a bright moon in the spotlight.

Previously on the Space Advent Calendar:

Alan Boyle is NBCNews.com's science editor. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the NBC News Science Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding the Cosmic Log page to your Google+ presence. To keep up with NBCNews.com's stories about science and space, sign up for the Tech & Science newsletter, delivered to your email in-box every weekday. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.