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Holiday calendar: A Christmas portrait of the planet


Weather imagery from the GOES East satellite, captured early Christmas morning, is draped over NASA's "Blue Planet" visualization.

Half the world's weather on Christmas morning is on view in this fresh picture of Earth's full disk, generated using data from the GOES East satellite.

GOES East and GOES West keep watch on weather systems from their geostationary vantage points, 22,300 miles above the planet.  (GOES stands for Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite.) NASA takes the GOES satellites' cloud cover readings and overlays them on a full-disk "Blue Planet" view of the oceans and land masses. The result is a hemisphere-wide snapshot of Earth like this one, produced every three hours.

This Christmas portrait of the planet is the final picture for the 2013 Cosmic Log Space Advent Calendar, which has been offering daily imagery of Earth from space during December. There's more in store for 2014: You can download a free set of desktop calendar images from DigitalGlobe, featuring beautiful satellite views of locales around the world. And don't miss the last entries from these other space-themed Advent calendars: The Atlantic's Hubble Advent CalendarZooniverse's Advent calendar and the Galileo's Pendulum Science Advent Calendar.

The best way to end this edition of the Cosmic Log Space Advent Calendar is to recall NASA astronaut Frank Borman's final words from Apollo 8's Christmas Eve broadcast 45 years ago, as he and his crewmates gazed on a sight much like the one that GOES East gives us today:

"We close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas — and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth."

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.

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. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.

View the top otherworldly images from the last year.