New Images of Earth/Moon Captured by NASA Spacecrafts in Saturn, Mercury
July 23, 2013 11:42 AM
They were taken July 19, 2013
Two NASA spacecrafts managed to get a special glimpse of the Earth and its moon from the both the inner and outer solar system.
, which launched back in 1997 and was sent to the Saturn system, took color images of Earth and its moon on July 19, 2013. This is pretty significant, considering it's the first time the Cassini's highest-resolution camera was able to capture Earth and its moon as two separate and recognizable objects. The photos were taken from almost 900 million miles away.
Earth (left) and its moon (right) in one of Cassini's photos
Cassini took the photos from the outer solar system in Saturn orbit. This isn't an easy task, considering the Earth appears very close to the sun from that distance, and the light can damage the camera's detectors. But on July 19, the sun moved behind Saturn and out of the way of the camera for a short period of time, allowing Cassini to take some rare shots.
In the photos, Earth has a blue shade while its moon is a bright white. NASA invited people to join in by finding Saturn in the sky and sharing pictures over the Internet that day. About 200,000 people took part.
"We can't see individual continents or people in this portrait of Earth, but this pale blue dot is a succinct summary of who we were on July 19," said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist, at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "Cassini's picture reminds us how tiny our home planet is in the vastness of space, and also testifies to the ingenuity of the citizens of this tiny planet to send a robotic spacecraft so far away from home to study Saturn and take a look-back photo of Earth."
, a robotic spacecraft that launched to Mercury's orbit in 2004, also took a black-and-white photo of Earth and its moon from 61 million miles away within the inner solar system.
Photos taken of the Earth and its moon from Cassini (left) and MESSENGER (right)
"That images of our planet have been acquired on a single day from two distant solar system outposts reminds us of this nation's stunning technical accomplishments in planetary exploration," said Sean Solomon, MESSENGER Principal Investigator from Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, N.Y. "And because Mercury and Saturn are such different outcomes of planetary formation and evolution, these two images also highlight what is special about Earth. There's no place like home."
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