Leave it to NASA to reveal just how insignificant we are. On July 19, NASA snapped two pictures of Earth from two different spacecraft hundreds of million miles apart.
The first comes from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. Launched in 1997, Cassini arrived at Saturn in 2004 and has been observing the ringed-planet ever since. At a distance of 900 million miles from Earth, Cassini’s latest image shows Earth as a pale blue dot awash in a sea of darkness:
The second comes from NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft. Launched in 2004, MESSENGER has been in Mercury’s orbit since 2011. At 61 million miles from Earth, MESSENGER is much closer to home than Cassini, though its images are no less stunning. Here, MESSENGER snapped a photo of the Earth and the moon:
“Cassini's picture reminds us how tiny our home planet is in the vastness of space,” said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It “also testifies to the ingenuity of the citizens of this tiny planet to send a robotic spacecraft so far away from home to study Saturn and take a look-back photo of Earth.”
The pictures taken from Cassini were part of a “Wave at Saturn” initiative, in which 20,000 people around the world “posed” for Cassini’s portrait by finding Saturn in the night sky.
“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,” said Spilker.
According to NASA, pictures of Earth from the outer solar system are rare because of how close it appears to the Sun at that distance. It can also potentially damage the spacecraft’s lens to look directly at the Sun.
What do you think of the images?
Check out even more images from the Earth's July 19 photoshoot here.