July 22, 2016

Earth and Moon seen from Saturn by Cassini spacecraft from 900 million miles away

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In this rare image taken on July 19, 2013, the wide-angle camera on NASA's Cassini spacecraft has captured Saturn's rings and our planet Earth and its Moon in the same frame. It is only one footprint in a mosaic of 33 footprints covering the entire Saturn ring system (including Saturn itself). At each footprint, images were taken in different spectral filters for a total of 323 images: some were taken for scientific purposes and some to produce a natural color mosaic. This is the only wide-angle footprint that has the Earth-moon system in it.

The dark side of Saturn, its bright limb, the main rings, the F ring, and the G and E rings are clearly seen; the limb of Saturn and the F ring are overexposed. The "breaks" in the brightness of Saturn's limb are due to the shadows of the rings on the globe of Saturn, preventing sunlight from shining through the atmosphere in those regions. The E and G rings have been brightened for better visibility.

Earth, which is 898 million miles (1.44 billion kilometers) away in this image, appears as a blue dot at center right; the Moon can be seen as a fainter protrusion off its right side. An arrow indicates their location in the annotated version. The other bright dots nearby are stars.

This is only the third time ever that Earth has been imaged from the outer Solar System. The acquisition of this image, along with the accompanying composite narrow- and wide-angle image of Earth and the Moon and the full mosaic from which both are taken, marked the first time that inhabitants of Earth knew in advance that their planet was being imaged. That opportunity allowed people around the world to join together in social events to celebrate the occasion.

This view looks toward the unilluminated side of the rings from about 20 degrees below the ring plane.

Images taken using red, green and blue spectral filters were combined to create this natural color view. The images were obtained with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on July 19, 2013 at a distance of approximately 753,000 miles (1.212 million kilometers) from Saturn, and approximately 898.414 million miles (1.445858 billion kilometers) from Earth. Image scale on Saturn is 43 miles (69 kilometers) per pixel; image scale on the Earth is 53,820 miles (86,620 kilometers) per pixel. The illuminated areas of neither Earth nor the Moon are resolved here. Consequently, the size of each "dot" is the same size that a point of light of comparable brightness would have in the wide-angle camera.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
Explanation from: http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA17171

1 comment:

  1. In Saturn’s patient shadow
    Shielded from the Sun’s glare
    I lingered for a while
    Reflecting on the sunlit byways
    As yet, untraveled
    Where Man, one day
    May gingerly,
    Set foot.
    Soaking in the Rings
    And saturated in immensity
    I’m delighted to see
    And hear, and sense
    The Great Cosmic Kindness
    A latent, hidden Force
    Uplifting and yet sobering
    That calls us tiny souls
    To ponder, in amazement
    The Greatest Gift ever conceived.
    The Universe. Abundant.
    I hope my simple, roaming mind
    Reaching out, like a youngster
    Madly excited
    Skipping along
    Will never cease

    To wonder.