The Sun rising over Earth from space has to be one of the most iconic and, honestly, overused shots in visual effects. So when I was asked to do it, I was determined to give it a bit of extra detail and interest.
I started by building the Earth in Max, using a geosphere to keep the silhouette smooth. I used a falloff map with shadow/light type and then used a spotlight to reveal the day side, thereby making a dynamic shader that changes depending on where the light moves and isn't animated by itself. If you look closely you can see, in the image above, the faint light from cities in North and South America. In the image below you can see the shader at work.
The following images follow the progression of the project from raw render from Max/Mental Ray through compositing(done in Combustion). The model is two spheres, one slighty larger to do clouds with raytraced shadows falling on the planet. The clouds also have a bump map to give them some puffiness. The second image has added glow and a blue atmospheric haze(actually a drop shadow). Third is an added starry backdrop. Fourth has the initial lens flare that is the sun itself. The final image has two more lens flares, one for glint and actual flare elements that lasts for just a moment and one to create the reddish haze masked to the planet.