This project has taken me many hours to complete, but it was a lot of fun. I’ve attached three shots of the two different Earth models I’ve built. One of the models is designed to be photo-realistic, the other is designed after NASA’s Blue Marble. Each model includes three sections: a day section, a night section, and a city lights section. The sections can be rendered independently of each other, or in any combination.
You can see some full-size renders (including some 2560x1920 ones) at this page. The Blue Marble model allows for some serious close-up rendering (after all, some of the maps I used are 21600x10800 pixels, and that’s small compared to the biggest size available from NASA!).
I’ve put together a
so that others can benefit from the work I’ve done. This is not a “how-to-get-Earth-in-five-easy-steps” kind of tutorial; I go into details such as land-masked specular shading, ray-traced cloud shadows, and city lights. I provide links for finding and downloading the maps that I used (which come from the Visible Earth project and are all free), and also provide credit information. Three of the maps (the photo-realistic land map and the two night land maps) I actually modified and uploaded myself - I don’t know of anywhere else where you can get free high-quality maps like these.
An animation of the photorealistic model may be found here.
Here are the .blend files: