Say Cheese: Cassini to Snap Another “Pale Blue Dot” Picture of Earth

by Jason Major on June 18, 2013

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Mosaic of Saturn seen in eclipse in September 2006. Earth is the bright dot just inside the F ring at upper left. (CICLOPS/NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)

Mosaic of Saturn seen in eclipse in September 2006. Earth is the bright dot just inside the F ring at upper left. (CICLOPS/NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)

Citizens of Earth, get ready for your Cassini close-up: once again the spacecraft is preparing to capture images of Saturn positioned between it and the Sun, allowing for incredible views of the ring system and its atmosphere — and also a tiny “pale blue dot” in the distance we call home.

Earth seen from Cassini (NASA/JPL/SSI)

Earth seen from Cassini (NASA/JPL/SSI)

The mosaic above was composed of images captured during such an eclipse event in September 2006, and quickly became an astronomical sensation. It’s not often we get an idea of what we look like from so far away, and seeing our entire world represented as a small speck of light nestled between Saturn’s rings is, to me anyway, both impressive and humbling.

Humbling because of how small we look, but impressive because as a species we have found a way to do it.

And next month, on Friday, July 19 between 21:27 and 21:42 UTC (5:27 – 5:42 p.m. EDT) Cassini will do it again.

“Ever since we caught sight of the Earth among the rings of Saturn in September 2006 in a mosaic that has become one of Cassini’s most beloved images, I have wanted to do it all over again, only better,” said Cassini imaging team leader, Carolyn Porco. “And this time, I wanted to turn the entire event into an opportunity for everyone around the globe, at the same time, to savor the uniqueness of our beautiful blue-ocean planet and the preciousness of the life on it.”

Porco was involved in co-initiating and executing the famous “Pale Blue Dot” image of Earth taken by NASA’s Voyager 1 from beyond the orbit of Neptune in 1990.

“It will be a day for all the world to celebrate,” she said.

The intent for the upcoming mosaic is to capture the whole scene, Earth and Saturn’s rings from one end to the other, in Cassini’s red, green and blue filters that can be composited to form a natural color view of what our eyes might see at Saturn. Earth and the Moon will also be imaged with a high resolution camera — something not yet done by Cassini.

We can all consider ourselves pretty lucky, too… this is the first time in history that we humans will know in advance that our picture is going to be taken from nearly a billion miles away.

“While Earth will be only about a pixel in size from Cassini’s vantage point 898 million miles [1.44 billion kilometers] away, the Cassini team is looking forward to giving the world a chance to see what their home looks like from Saturn,” said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “With this advance notice, we hope you’ll join us in waving at Saturn from Earth, so we can commemorate this special opportunity.”

So on July 19, remember to look up and wave… Cassini will be watching!

Read more on the CICLOPS news release here and on the NASA/JPL Cassini mission site here.

“That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives… There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world.”

– Carl Sagan

About 

A graphic designer in Rhode Island, Jason writes about space exploration on his blog Lights In The Dark, Discovery News, and, of course, here on Universe Today. Ad astra!

Andrew Bridger June 18, 2013 at 8:57 PM

Maybe we should declare July 18 as cleanup for the photo day [go clean up a nearby park river or yard]. We can help mother earth feel pretty for her photo shoot.

Enrique Fiset June 18, 2013 at 10:14 PM

Too much job, but good idea.

Aqua4U June 20, 2013 at 12:16 AM

I like this idea! I live near the coast by a river that is also the main route to the sea. I like to take what I call ‘crap cruises’ on my bicycle, that is to say I mount rear paniers, bungee cords (for bigger stuff) and ride a couple miles either way up and down the nearby highway. I pick up ALL the plastic bags I find and any other plastic crap I can haul. I also pick up recyclables. I use the refund money to buy my BEER! LOL! It is UNBELIEVABLE how much crap people throw out their car windows! What the HELL is wrong with these BUTT NUGGETS? Stupidity is the key word here…. This time of year – It’s SUMMERTIME! – there is a near endless flow of traffic to an fro. What gets me is that I will pick up allah trash I find then might go out the next day to do it again and can’t tell I’d done it the day before. Most often seen are Starbucks coffee cups with their plastic tops, Buttwiper and Coors Beer cans, plastic water bottles and innumerable soda cans… You don’t want to know what I’d like to do with all this crap? Actually, I’d like to find the perps and stick this stuff where the sun don’t shine!

duncan@r-p-m.eu June 20, 2013 at 5:15 PM

My hat off to you sir for making the world a little bit better.
unfortunately i currently live in a country with no nature besides the sea for 100s of miles. But when i constantly see trash littered around just about everywhere, often bags,bottles and cans within a few feet from a trashcan it saddens me. To few people give a damn for their surroundings and what they do to it.

novenator June 18, 2013 at 9:52 PM

Thanks for the… heads up on this Jason Major for this news.

Enrique Fiset June 18, 2013 at 10:15 PM

Look at South for Saturn and smile!

Astroraider June 18, 2013 at 10:42 PM

useless … 1 pixel .. who cares …

Perhaps a better perspective might be from New Horizons … to show how incredibly insignificant our planet seems from a distance … I am guessing it would be far less than a whole pixel …

We should understand how important our world is and QUIT DESTROYING everything in the name of GOD or overpopulation or ignorance (all driven by GREED or the ILLUSION OF POWER – there is no GOD except the almighty dollar!). Almost everyone in the world would destroy the future of Earth for that single dollar more.

esmifra June 19, 2013 at 9:14 AM

You know that if it’s less then a pixel than you wouldn’t see it right?

That idea of yours is preposterous…. And using caps every five words is not regarded as a expression of opinion but as an imposition…

Beck45 June 19, 2013 at 2:01 PM

Yes an annoyingly written post, surely. But about the pixel thing, no. You’d of course still see things less than 1 pixel in size. Think of the image on the camera sensor. It still charges that pixel just not as much as a larger dot of the same brightness.

Anyway religion tends to come up in general since it’s still an extremely prevalent motivator for *everything* in today’s world. But being an absurdity, some people, understandably, will be chafed by it.

Planemo June 19, 2013 at 3:43 PM

No God uh? Ok, I cannot prove there is a God in as much as you cannot prove there is NOT a God. Science is catching up either way. Sounds to me Astroraider is playing GOD. “Know it all are you”? To me, the possibilities are there. This cosmos was planted like a mustard seed. By whom? You name ‘it’ what you want.
That mustard seed grew into a tree, then spawned/grew fruits. This cosmos had a start like a seed plant called a “singularity”. It grew-expanded/spawned gases, gravity, strong/weak nuklear, dark energy/matter, stars, blackholes, planets, … -you get the picture-. God Astroraider. When will I hit the multi-million dollar lottery? ;-)

lcrowell June 19, 2013 at 2:26 AM

These are quite stunning images. The rings scatter a lot of light around to give this halo appearance.

LC

Kawarthajon June 19, 2013 at 3:39 PM

I agree. These Cassini guys are not just scientists, they truly are artists! Every time I see one of their newest photos, I think it is the most beautiful one I’ve ever seen, and then they come up with an even more stunning one. Impressive.

On another note, what are those wispy things at the bottom of the photo? Light spikes from the camera, or illuminated dust or somethings else?

lcrowell June 19, 2013 at 3:57 PM

I don’t know what those orange colored wisps are. I suspect they are some artifact of the optics.

LC

Jason Major June 19, 2013 at 4:20 PM

Agreed. I believe they are glare artifacts due to the lighting and the fact that the entire image is a mosaic of many smaller ones, each with its own angle of glare.

Planemo June 19, 2013 at 4:30 PM

Exactly. Looks so awesome! Whats up with ‘orange’ hazy colors. Looks like horizontal fading lightning ‘sprites’ in a way.

Bridh Amazing Hancock June 19, 2013 at 8:48 AM

A global Clean-Up day on July 18th sounds good, and it will catch on, surely.
How insignificant is Earth! Never! Ah, but only in the perspective of here & now, and not in even the Solar system.

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