Behold: the first image from NASA's newest Earth-observing satellite

You're looking at a section of the first image to be compiled from measurements made by the Visible Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) onboard NPP — NASA's newest Earth-observing satellite. (In case you were wondering, "NPP" is the drastically shortened acronym for the agency's National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project).

The image featured above is a section of a larger image (hi-res versions of which can be downloaded here) that captures an enormous swath of the Earth's surface, extending from Canada's Hudson Bay all the way to the northern coast of Venezuela. In the image up top, you can make out Florida and Cuba just left of the image's center.

According to NASA:

VIIRS is one of five instruments onboard the [NPP satellite] that launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., on Oct. 28. Since then, NPP reached its final orbit at an altitude of 512 miles (824 kilometers), powered on all instruments and is traveling around the Earth at 16,640 miles an hour (eight kilometers per second).

"The task now for the science community is to evaluate VIIRS performance and determine the accuracy of its data products," said Chris Justice, a professor of geography at the University of Maryland, College Park, who will use data gathered by VIIRS in his research.

"These long-term data records are critical in monitoring how the Earth's surface is changing - either from human activity or through climate change."

[Via NASA Earth Observatory]