What does the Earth and Moon look like from other planets in the solar system? Just more pretty little lights in the dark…
Well, the images are in and they are just a-mazing! After the world smiled and waved at Saturn on Friday, July 19 and Cassini snapped* photos from 898 million miles away — which, incidentally, was also the same day that the MESSENGER spacecraft was taking images in our direction from orbit around Mercury — we all went on our way, hopefully enjoying the weekend while some of us waited for the image data to arrive and be shared online. (The more impatient among us… myself very included… made some preliminary color pictures from the first sets of raw images that posted on the Cassini site.)
But now the real images are up, processed by the folks at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, CO and APL at Johns Hopkins who really know their stuff and what’s what in these images… and all I can say is wow.
As Carl Sagan famously said, “That’s here. That’s home. That’s us.” Those little dots in these images captured from two sides of the solar system are our entire planet and its lone satellite, and we are all there on them. All of us, every single one. Ever.
Sure, pictures like this have been taken before. This time, though, we knew beforehand, and the world was ready.
“Last Friday was a very special day in the life of our planet.For the very first time, occasioned by the taking of images of Earth from our cameras at Saturn, people around the globe had the chance to reflect on our cosmic place, the uniqueness of our home planet, and the significance of our very existence.And judging from the heart-warming reports I have received, they also felt a connection to each other and the cosmos in a way they never did before.”
– Carolyn Porco, Cassini Imaging Team Leader
Some people may feel that images like these show the insignificance of our planet amid the vastness of space, but I feel that the sheer fact that we have figured out a way to obtain these views highlights the incredible ingenuity of the human mind and spirit and what can be accomplished, collectively, in the name of exploration and knowledge.
And if that doesn’t make the Earth smile, I don’t know what will.
(Were you in any of these pictures? Find out what parts of Earth were facing Cassini and MESSENGER here.)
Image credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI (Cassini) and NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington (MESENGER)