Archive for the ‘Tournament Earth’ Category


No, that is not a photograph of the death star orbiting Earth. It is the winner of NASA Earth Observatory’s 2016 Tournament Earth—the Dark Side and the Bright Side. The image shows the fully illuminated far side of the Moon that is not visible from Earth.

The images were acquired by the Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) on the DSCOVR satellite, which orbits about 1.6 million kilometers (1 million miles) from Earth. EPIC maintains a constant view of the fully illuminated Earth as it rotates. About twice a year the camera captures images of the Moon and Earth together as the orbit of DSCOVR crosses the orbital plane of the Moon.

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The Moon faced some stiff competition on its journey to the championship. In the course of the tournament, it faced a trio of hurricanes over the Pacific, the electric eye of Cyclone Bansi, an underwater volcano, and the wrath of Mount St. Helens. The final round came down to a slugfest between the Moon and an impressionistic bloom in the Baltic Sea caused by a profusion of cyanobacteria. When the voting was over, the Dark Side/Bright Side finished with 59 percent of the vote.

While we aren’t aware of any homecoming parades to honor the 2016 champion, watching the video above (or listening to all of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon) seems like a fitting way to celebrate. The images in the movie below were taken over the course of five hours on July 16, 2015. The North Pole is toward the upper left, reflecting the orbital tilt of Earth from the vantage point of the spacecraft. The far side of the Moon was first observed in 1959, when the Soviet Luna 3 spacecraft returned the first images. Since then, several missions by NASA and other space agencies have imaged the lunar far side.


Tournament Earth: Round 2 Open for Voting

March 8th, 2016 by Kevin Ward

Tournament Earth 2016 Round 2

How did you fare in the opening round of Tournament Earth 2016? One of my favorite photos, showing Mauna Kea volcano has already gone down in defeat. The top seeds moved on to the next round with the exception of Laguna Colorado that fell to an upstart view of New Zealand in sunglint. What will happen in Round 2? Anything is possible. Polls are open for you to vote for the sixteen images that remain through Friday at 4:00 p.m. EDT / 8:00 p.m. UTC. Vote at

Remember to Vote

March 1st, 2016 by Mike Carlowicz

Here in the U.S., it’s election season. Don’t forget to vote.

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For the second year in a row, an image from the Canary Islands took the championship of Tournament: Earth. In 2013, a submarine volcano near El Hierro Island was the crowd favorite. This year, it was a shot of the entire island chain that dominated the vote. When “Trailing the Canaries” faced “Activity at Kliuchevskoi” in the championship round, it wasn’t just a win for the Canaries image; it was a blowout. Of the nearly 50,000 votes cast, 96 percent went to the Canary Islands image.

To salute our many readers from the Canaries, we’ve combed through our archives and selected five of our all-time favorite images involving the island chain. They are posted below from oldest to newest. Click on each image for more details. Enjoy!

Dust over the Canary Islands (March 2009)

Teide Volcano (July 2009)

Sand and Tourism in Gran Canaria (January 2013)

El Hierro Submarine Volcano Eruption (2013 Tournament Earth Champion)

Trailing the Canaries (2014 Tournament Earth Champion)

Tournament Earth Update

March 11th, 2014 by Adam Voiland


How is your bracket looking after the opening round of Tournament Earth? Unsurprisingly, top seeds Global Toll of Particulate Pollution (56.2 percent of votes), Snow Across Great Britain (50.7 percent), and Liege at Night (54.7) all dispatched weaker opponents in the first round of competition. The notable exception among the top seeds was Air Quality Suffering in China, which went down to eight-seeded Something Fishing in the Deep, Dark Ocean in a surprise loss in the events section, earning a mere 35.7 percent of votes. The other big upset of the opening round was seventh-seed Deforestation in Brazil knocking out second-seed Smoke Engulfs Singapore, with 50.9 percent of the vote. Haiyan’s Winds, Ship Tracks off North America, Fires in Colorado, and New Island Off Pakistan also went down in defeat against lesser opponents. Polls are open for you to vote for the sixteen images that remain through Friday at 4:00 p.m. EDT / 8:00 p.m. UTC. Vote at

R.I.P. Air Quality Suffering in China

Last Day to Vote in Round One of Tournament Earth

March 7th, 2014 by Adam Voiland

I hope your brackets are ready because polls for round one of Tournament Earth close today at 4 p.m EST/9 p.m. UTC. Second round voting will open on Monday at 9 a.m. EST/ 1 p.m. UTC). Also, stay tuned for occasional posts on Earth Matters with details about how images fared in the competition.

The images in the tournament are a blend of reader and staff favorites from the 2013 calendar year. The images are seeded and divided into four brackets categorized by image type: data visualization, photographs, art, and events. The top seed in the data visualization bracket — and the No. 1 seed overall — is a global map of fine particulate pollution that garnered more than 150,000 page views in 2013. The photo section is topped by a nighttime view of Liege, Belgium, as photographed by an astronaut on the International Space Station. The “art” section is led by a satellite image of a rare snowfall in Great Britain. The top seed among natural events is a January 2013 satellite image of a smog and pollution over China — the second most popular image on the Earth Observatory last year. Six of the seven most-viewed images on the site are battling in the events section. Good luck with your bracket!

Vote at

Create and print your bracket at

Tournament Earth