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Sneak Peeks of the Earth and Saturn Panorama from Cassini on July 19

The Day the Earth Smiled: Sneak Preview 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. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

The Day the Earth Smiled: Sneak Preview
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. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
See below our wider context mosaic of the Earth, Saturn and its majestic rings

Breathtaking raw images of the Earth and Saturn system snapped by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft on July 19 during the worldwide ‘Wave at Saturn’ campaign are streaming back across 1 billion miles of interplanetary space.

Science team members are now busily processing the images to create individual color composites and a panoramic view of the ‘pale blue dot’ and the entire Saturnian system.

NASA just released the first individual color composite focusing on Earth – see above. And its spectacular!

See below our preliminary mosaic showing the Earth in context with nearly half of Saturn and floating in between its incomparably majestic rings.

Partial context mosaic of the Earth and Saturn taken by NASA’s Cassini orbiter on July 19, 2013.   This mosaic was assembled from five wide angle camera raw images.  Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Ken Kremer/Marco Di Lorenzo

Partial context mosaic of the Earth and Saturn taken by NASA’s Cassini orbiter on July 19, 2013. This mosaic was assembled from five wide angle camera raw images and offers a sneak peek of the complete panorama. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Ken Kremer/Marco Di Lorenzo

To capture all of Saturn and its wide swath of rings, Cassini’s wide angle camera snapped a mosaic of 33 footprints.

“At each footprint, images were taken in different spectral filters for a total of 323 images,” says Carolyn Porco, Cassini Imaging Team leader of the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

Cassini took the pictures of Earth between 2:27 and 2:42 p.m. PDT on Friday, July 19 from a distance of about 898 million miles (1.44 billion kilometers) away from the home to every human being that has ever lived.

The images show the Earth and the Moon as dots barely about a pixel wide but do reveal the ‘pale blue dot’ that is home to all of humanity and our whitish colored neighbor.

Coincidentally, the first humans (Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin) set foot on the Moon 44 years ago nearly to the day of Cassini’s new images on July 20, 1969.

Distant views of the Earth from our robotic explorers, especially from the outer reaches of our Solar System, are few and far between, and are therefore events for space and astronomy enthusiasts and everyone else to savor.

“One of the most exciting Cassini events in 2013 will be the unusual opportunity on July 19 to image the whole Saturn system as it is backlit by the sun,” explained Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

“With Saturn covering the harsh light of the sun, we will be gathering unique ring science and also catching a glimpse of our very own home planet.”

Cassini previously took an absolutely fabulous mosaic of Saturn and Earth back in 2006 that stands as one of the landmark images of the space age.

Besides being picturesque, such mosaics also serve science. For example, the 2006 image “revealed that the dusty E ring, which is fed by the water-ice plume of the moon Enceladus, had unexpectedly large variations in brightness and color around its orbit,” says Spilker.

“We’ll want to see how that looks seven Earth years and a Saturnian season later, giving us clues to the forces at work in the Saturn system. We’ll do this analysis by collecting data from our visual and infrared mapping spectrometer, composite infrared mapping spectrometer and ultraviolet imaging spectrograph in addition to the imaging cameras.”

This simulated view from NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows the expected positions of Saturn and Earth on July 19, 2013, around the time Cassini will take Earth's picture. Cassini will be about 898 million miles (1.44 billion kilometers) away from Earth at the time. That distance is nearly 10 times the distance from the sun to Earth. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

This simulated view from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft shows the expected positions of Saturn and Earth on July 19, 2013, around the time Cassini will take Earth’s picture. Cassini will be about 898 million miles (1.44 billion kilometers) away from Earth at the time. That distance is nearly 10 times the distance from the sun to Earth. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“July 19 marked the first time people on Earth had advance notice their planet’s portrait was being taken from interplanetary distances,” says NASA.

I waved fondly at Saturn and hope you had the chance to wave at Saturn from all across the globe. NASA reports that nearly 20,000 participated in organized events. Countless others waved too.

Cassini was launched in 1997 and achieved orbit at Saturn in 2004. The mission is scheduled to continue until 2017 when it will commit a suicide death dive into the gas giant.

“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 in a NASA statement.

“Cassini’s picture reminds us how tiny our home planet is in the vastness of space, and 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.”

Ken Kremer

JPL Waves at Saturn As NASA's Cassini spacecraft turned its imaging cameras to Earth, scientists, engineers and visitors at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., gathered to wave at our robotic photographer in the Saturn system on July 19, 2013. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

JPL Waves at Saturn
As NASA’s Cassini spacecraft turned its imaging cameras to Earth, scientists, engineers and visitors at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., gathered to wave at our robotic photographer in the Saturn system on July 19, 2013. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jerry Alez July 23, 2013, 2:30 AM

    I can see my house !

  • bugzzz July 23, 2013, 3:08 AM

    Fantastic.

  • Kevin Frushour July 23, 2013, 3:47 AM

    OH MY GOT THERE’S AN ARROW COMING AT US! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!

  • lcrowell July 23, 2013, 5:04 PM

    The picture is worth keeping. In effect we are waving at ourselves.
    LC

  • Prism2Spectrum July 28, 2013, 12:03 PM

    _________________________________ A Saturn Vision ____________________________

    From realm of Ringed Planet far, the Earth-Moon system shines, O, such a beautiful star!

    In surreal realm of flight, a captured frame for philosophers to muse, and poets to write:

    That Life-beacon below Ringed sky – all the proud nations of men, lost in a mechanical eye:

    Within its twilight of Sun illuminated place, the World of man appears as dream in Space!

    From its Biosphere of time, a vast Star-System swarms with its high intelligence of mind!

    To ponder that portrait of radiant blue light, profound the wonder in those beeps of night.

    Through Solar Plane around, worlds magnificent, Life-presence from one Planet’s sound.

    And there! Intimate beside an Orb of royal blue, the faithful point of silver-glowing Moon.

    Like well made watch built for Time, though battered in lost age, yet turns a balance fine.

    Through lens of robot in Saturn space, a wonder beheld, in moment of Living embrace.

    _________ JRC

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