NASA's Cassini spacecraft is currently hanging out in the vicinity of Saturn, where it just captured these new and rare images of the gas giant, the Earth, and our moon all in one family photo. From 900 million miles away the Earth is nothing but a tiny speck of light, about one pixel high and dwarfed by Saturn's massive rings. And moon is not much bigger. The picture has to be magnified quite a bit for you to even distinguish them, but they are both there, in a rare chance to actually see ourselves from such an enormous distance. Normally, the sun's light blocks out Earth from that distance, but Cassini's position behind Saturn allowed the inner planet to be seen.
NASA heavily promoted the photo shoot in advance (it was taken on July 19), because it was the first time they were able to give early warning that a picture of Earth would be taken. They launched a global campaign for people to go outside at the appointed time and "Wave at Saturn." On the same day, Earth was captured from a different angle, by the Messenger spacecraft orbiting Mercury. Put together, the two pictures (sorta) capture every living human.
One of Cassini's projects is to make a "mosaic" image of the entire planetary system, including Saturn's rings and many moons, and to track changes in the rings over time. That 33-image mosaic will be released later.
For more images, including computer wallpaper-sized downloads, go to NASA.gov.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.