Feeds

Planetary paparazzi snap candid pics of Earth, Moon from space

Cassini, MESSENGER break out the long lenses

Security for virtualized datacentres

NASA has released rare photographs of the Earth taken from unusual vantage points – namely, spacecraft orbiting planets millions of miles away.

On Saturday, July 19, NASA's Cassini probe took color photos of the Earth and its moon from its orbit around Saturn, some 900 million miles (1.5 billion km) distant.

At the same time, the MESSENGER probe, currently in orbit around Mercury, snapped black and white shots from a distance of 61 million miles (98 million km). In those pictures, the Earth and the Moon are actually each less than one pixel in size, but they're still visible because the images were overexposed.

Even in the Cassini images, the Earth appears as little more than a tiny, bright blue speck, and the Moon is an even smaller blip. Saturn's rings loom large by comparison in one shot taken with the spacecraft's wide-angle lens.

Boffins at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California are currently working with the Cassini photos to produce a larger, mosaic image showing Earth dwarfed by the gas giant, but that effort is expected to take several weeks to complete.

Shots of Earth and the Moon taken from Cassini and MESSENGER

Earth, seen from a distance: Cassini on the left, MESSENGER on the right (click to enlarge)

"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," Cassini project scientist Linda Spilker said in a statement on Monday.

Such shots of Earth from the outer solar system are hard to come by, as a rule, because aiming a camera at Earth from such a far distance risks pointing it directly at the sun, which can damage its sensors. In this case, scientists took advantage of the fact that Saturn had temporarily blocked Cassini's view of the sun, creating the unique photo op.

"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 MESSENGER principal investigator Sean Solomon. "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." ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
'Utter killjoy Reg hacks have NEVER BEEN LAID', writes a fan
'Shuddit, smarty pants!' Some readers reacted badly to our last Doctor Who review ...
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
White LED lies: It's great, but Nobel physics prize-winning great?
How artificial lighting could offer an artificial promise
NASA eyeballs SOLAR HEAT BOMBS, MINI-TORNADOES and NANOFLARES on Sun
Astro boffins probe fiery star's hidden depths
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.