Feeds

Mars rover Curiosity snaps 'pale blue dot' image of Earth, Moon

All of humanity seen in a precious few pixels

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

NASA's Jet propulsion Laboratory has published the first image of the Earth and Moon taken from one of the camera systems aboard the Curiosity rover. We look very small indeed.

Earth from Mars

You are here (click to enlarge)

Curiosity's mast camera took the picture of us on Sol 529 of its mission to Mars (January 31 in Earth's chronology) at around 80 minutes after the sun set over the rover's parking spot on the Red Planet. The Earth and Moon blend into a single blob and could only be separated by image enhancement and the elimination the effects of cosmic rays from the shot, NASA said.

While the primary focus of the rover is downward at the Martian soil, and occasionally drilling below its surface, Curiosity's controllers at JPL will be spending more time looking up this year. Besides the Earth shot, the rover (and NASA's other Martian hardware) is on standby to observe the passing of comet Siding Spring in October as it skims 86,000 miles (138,000 kilometers) over Mars, spraying debris as it goes.

Comet Siding Spring

Comet Siding Spring, coming soon to a planet near you

"Our plans for using spacecraft at Mars to observe comet Siding Spring will be coordinated with plans for how the orbiters will duck and cover, if we need to do that," said Rich Zurek, Mars Exploration Program chief scientist at JPL.

While the Earth image from Curiosity isn't close to "I can see my house from here!" quality, it's still a humbling reminder of how far we have travelled as an exploring race, and even the usually acerbic author of the Sarcastic Rover Twitter feed was moved to pathos.

While the main focus of NASA is to look outward into the universe, some of its most moving images have been when the space agency's missions look back at Earth. Earthrise, taken of our planet by Apollo 8 in 1968, is one of the most iconic images in existence, and has been credited by some with kickstarting the environmental movement.

Perhaps the most famous example is the "Pale Blue Dot" photograph of Earth, sent 3.7 billion miles by Voyager 1 as the probe began to leave the Solar System. Astronomer Carl Sagan persuaded NASA to take the picture – not for science per se, but to show the scale of the Earth in the cosmos.

Pale Blue Dot

The ultimate long-distance selfie

"Consider again that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives," he later wrote in his book Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space.

"The aggregate of our joy and suffering," he wrote, "thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every 'superstar,' every 'supreme leader,' every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam."

As for Curiosity, it's currently sitting on the edge of a sand dune 92 million miles from home, waiting to see if NASA thinks it's safe to move forward. But the rover, its image, and the other probes, satellites, and explorers into outer space humanity has created, are a permanent testament of how far we've come, and how very, very far we have to go. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
ANU boffins demo 'tractor beam' in water
The current state of the art, apparently
China to test recoverable moon orbiter
I'll have some rocks and a moon cheese pizza please, home delivery
NASA's rock'n'roll shock: ROLLING STONE FOUND ON MARS
No sign of Ziggy Stardust and his band
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
Why your mum was WRONG about whiffy tattooed people
They're a future source of RENEWABLE ENERGY
Vulture 2 spaceplane autopilot brain surgery a total success
LOHAN slips into some sexy bespoke mission parameters
Another step forward for diamond-based quantum computers
Square cut or pear-shaped, these qubits don't lose their shape
LOHAN acquires aircraft arboreal avoidance algorithm acronyms
Is that an ARMADILLO in your PANTS or are you just pleased to see me?
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.