News

Smaller, paler Earth unveiled in new NASA photo

Smaller, paler Earth unveiled in new NASA photo

The wide-angle camera on NASA's Cassini spacecraft has captured Saturn's rings and planet Earth and its moon in the same frame in this rare image taken on July 19, 2013 courtesy of NASA. Photo: Reuters/NASA/Handout

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) – A robotic space probe nearly 900 million miles from Earth turned its gaze away from Saturn and its entourage of moons to take a picture of its home planet, NASA said on Monday.

The resulting image shows Earth as a very small, blue-tinged dot – paler and tinier than in other photos – overshadowed by the giant Saturn’s rings in foreground.

“We can’t see individual continents or people in this portrait of Earth, but this pale blue dot is a succinct summary of who we were on July 19,” Linda Spilker, Cassini spacecraft lead scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement.

Cassini snapped the picture on Friday, the same day NASA’s Mercury-orbiting MESSENGER probe imaged Earth as well. In that picture, Earth and the moon take up less than a pixel, but appear large because they are overexposed.

“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,” MESSENGER lead scientist Sean Solomon, with Columbia University in New York, said in a statement.

“The whole event underscores for me our ‘coming of age’ as planetary explorers,” added astronomer Carolyn Porco, who oversees the Cassini imaging team at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

Usually, spacecraft in the far reaches of the solar system don’t look back toward Earth to avoid damaging their instruments by direct sunlight. Last week, the sun was temporarily blocked relative to Cassini’s line of sight, allowing the U.S. space agency to take the picture.

Recent Headlines

yesterday in Weird

If he can’t go to prom with Miss America, he’ll go alone

missamerica

A Pennsylvania teen, suspended for asking Miss America to prom, has turned down offers from a reality TV star, Las Vegas "bunnies" and scores of young women on social media.

yesterday in Entertainment

‘The Other Woman’ serves up revenge in comic female fantasy

other

"The Other Woman" is a somewhat rare species - a comedy by women, about women and for women.

yesterday in Entertainment

Judd Apatow’s ‘Simpsons’ episode to air after 24 years

simpsons

The "Knocked Up" writer/director submitted a script in the 90s. Now it's finally being made.

yesterday in Music

Rock Hall says Jimi Hendrix at Monterey ‘greatest’ festival moment

jimi

Fans vote on the top 10 music festival performances of all time. Do you agree with the list?

yesterday in Weird

Do you want fries with your truck fire?

fries

A tractor-trailer carrying 40,000 pounds of french fries catches fire. You're going to need a lot of ketchup.