NASA's still got it. While it might not be front and center in the news these days — with the passing of the shuttle program and after the landing of the Mars Rover — the space agency continues in its long tradition of producing exceptional photos. Think about it: Some of the most indelible images of the 20th century were captured by the federal agency. And as imaging technology advances, so do the quality of the images. Take this shot of the Earth from Saturn posted below. The gas giant's rings are rendered in full, clear detail, and the Earth is visible as a tiny blue dot. Think of all it took to set up this photo. The Cassini spacecraft that took the shot was launched in 1997 and first reached Saturn in 2005. Saturn is about 898 million miles away from us. This is the third-ever photo of the Earth taken from the outer solar system. What makes this photo even better is that NASA staff went outside on July 19 to smile and wave to the Cassini camera, and a few donned hula-hoops to mimic the rings. That's NASA — completely sublime, completely nerdy.
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. (NASA)
Below, find some more recent photos from the space agency.
One of the Expedition 36 crew members aboard the International Space Station used a 50mm lens to record this image of a large mass of storm clouds over the Atlantic Ocean near Brazil and the equator on July 4, 2013. (NASA Goddard Photo and Video) This colorful view of Mercury was produced by using images from the color base map imaging campaign during MESSENGER's primary mission. These colors are not what Mercury would look like to the human eye; they enhance the chemical, mineralogical, and physical differences between the rocks that make up Mercury's surface. (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington) NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, Expedition 36 flight engineer, uses a digital still camera during a session of extravehicular activity as work continues on the International Space Station. (NASA) A very anomalous weather pattern is in place over the U.S. for mid-July. Trapped between an upper level ridge centered over the Ohio Valley and the closed upper level low over the Texas/Oklahoma border, atypical hot, muggy air is stifling a broad swath of the Eastern U.S. (NOAA/NASA GOES Project)