Earth seen from the Mars Global Surveyor. Image credit: NASA/JPL

Astronomy, Guide to Space

Photos of the Earth and Moon – From Other Worlds

7 May , 2008 by

We’re familiar with the close-up images of Earth captured by orbital satellites and astronauts on the International Space Station. But here are a few pictures of the Earth and Moon captured at a distance, while passing around the Moon, or orbiting distant Saturn. In the words of Carl Sagan, “Look again at that dot. 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.”

Since Sagan commented on Voyager 1’s image of Earth, several more pics of the Earth and Moon have been captured that really put our tiny spot in the Universe into perspective.


Voyager 1 – the Pale Blue Dot
This image, captured by NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft on February 14, 1990, is the one Sagan was talking about. It was taken when Voyager 1 was about 6.4 billion kilometres (4 billion miles) from Earth. In this image, the entirety of the planet takes up less than a single pixel; in fact, NASA calculated that we’re only 0.12 pixel in size. Sagan pushed the agency to capture images of all the planets in the Solar System, to create a family portrait seen from Voyager’s distant position.



Cassini – the Earth from Saturn
This is easily the best picture ever captured by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, and in the running for the best space pictures of all time. It shows Saturn in all its glory, backlit by the Sun. From this view, the rings glow with an ethereal light.

But this image is extra special. Take a look towards the upper left of the image, and you’ll notice a tiny blue-white dot. Once again, there’s Earth, seen from a distance of 1.4 billion km (1 billion miles).


Mars Express – the Earth and Moon from Mars
ESA’s Mars Express captured this image of Earth and the Moon on July 3, 2005 when it was 8 million km (5 million miles). This was actually the first observational data sent back by the probe. A fitting introduction to Martian system. Of course, Mars Express was designed to image the relatively nearby surface of Mars, and not such distant objects, so the resolution of the image isn’t very good. And yet, they’re instantly recognizable as the Earth and Moon.

Opportunity Rover – the Earth from the Surface of Mars

Here’s an image of Earth captured from the surface of another planet. In this case, we’re seeing Earth from Mars, as photographed by NASA’s Mars rover Opportunity on April 29, 2005. Normally operating only in the Martian day, Opportunity woke up a little after sunset, and captured this image of Earth as the stars were starting to come out. The image of Earth looks a little elongated because it was moving slightly during the 15-second exposures. Imagine what some future Martian might see, stepping out onto the surface of the Red Planet in the dusky twilight to see our bright planet in the sky.


Rosetta – Earth and Moon during a flyby

Now this is what you might have been expecting to see. A picture of Earth, with the continents clearly visible. This photograph of Earth and the other of the Moon were taken by ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft during a flyby on November 15, 2007. Rosetta’s primary mission is to visit Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in May 2014, but this flyby was a great opportunity for Rosetta to test out its OSIRIS camera system. The image of the Moon was taken separately.


Earthrise – seen from the Moon
This is the classic “Earthrise” photograph, captured by astronaut William Anders during the historic Apollo 8 mission – the first human mission to the Moon. This photograph was taken on December 24, 1968. If you’re standing on the surface of the Moon, the Earth doesn’t actually “rise”. Since the Moon is tidally locked to the Earth, our planet always hangs in exactly the same point of the sky. It takes an orbiting spacecraft to see the Earth actually rise from the horizon.

This photograph was recreated by the Japanese Kaguya spacecraft, which captured a similar sequence of the Earth using its high-definition video camera.

Earth from Galileo
And finally, I think I’ve saved one of the best pictures for last. This is a photograph of the Earth and Moon (not to scale) captured by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft as it was speeding away towards Jupiter. Galileo captured these images in 1992, and finally reached the Jovian system in 1995-97. You’re looking at the Pacific Image, with South America visible as well as the Caribbean.

By  -          
Fraser Cain is the publisher of Universe Today. He's also the co-host of Astronomy Cast with Dr. Pamela Gay.


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Dale
Guest
Dale
May 7, 2008 12:24 PM

The Rosetta image of Earth needs to be flipped horizontally. That’s Australia in the picture.

greg your last name
Guest
greg your last name
May 7, 2008 12:42 PM

that is totally NOT Australia. i can see Florida and Cuba.

Brian Ventrudo
Member
May 7, 2008 12:43 PM

These are truly spectacular… I’ve never seen these all in one place!

Our political leaders should take a moment from time to time and contemplate these images. Especially the pixel-sized image of the Earth as a “mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam”, as Carl Sagan called it.

It puts our petty struggles in perspective and shows how fragile and irreplaceable the world is.

Jorge
Guest
May 7, 2008 1:39 PM
If you’re standing on the surface of the Moon, the Earth doesn’t actually “rise”. Since the Moon is tidally locked to the Earth, our planet always hangs in exactly the same point of the sky. It takes an orbiting spacecraft to see the Earth actually rise from the horizon. Actually, this is not true. The moon’s libration means that in some areas in the limit between the near side and the far side, the Earth does rise and set (in the same horizon… it goes back and forth) about once per month. And everywhere on the Moon, our planet only hangs in the same area of the sky, not the same spot. That limit between the far and… Read more »
owen
Guest
owen
May 7, 2008 2:16 PM

amazing pics

sofista
Member
May 7, 2008 2:19 PM

Frazer:

Amazing photos. Just check the year when Rosetta will meet its target comet. It should say 2014.

Colin J
Guest
Colin J
May 7, 2008 2:24 PM

Great job, nice to see all these photo’s together in one spot.

Todd Sieling
Guest
May 7, 2008 3:07 PM

Great post – what a treat to see all these images lined up.

sofista
Member
May 7, 2008 4:07 PM

Estamos familiarizados con los primeros planos de la Tierra captados por satélites en órbita y los astronautas de la Estación Espacial Internacional. Pero a continuación les presentamos algunas imágenes de la Tierra y la Luna captadas a distancia, mientras las naves espaciales pasaban alrededor de la Luna o giraban alrededor de Saturno. En palabras de Carl Sagan: […] Fuente: Fraser Cain para Universe Today.

aussie
Guest
aussie
May 7, 2008 10:35 PM

That totally IS Australia in the Rosetta image. Look at the Great Australian Bight. It does need flipping horizontally however as Dale said.

kvenlander
Guest
kvenlander
May 7, 2008 10:58 PM

Great pictures. How about adding links to original higher resolution images?

Use your eyes
Guest
Use your eyes
May 8, 2008 2:23 AM

You are trippin’ Greg That IS Australia. You can clearly see Eyre and Yorke peninsulas and as Aussie also said the Great Australian bight is clearly visable. The image does need to be flipped horizontally

PC in Dallas
Guest
PC in Dallas
May 8, 2008 4:52 AM

Greg… look at a world map. What other continents look like that near Cuba and Florida? None. It is Australia. If you were seeing Cuba and Florida you would probably see parts of South America and/or the Gulf Coast of the U.S. There are no islands off the SE coast of the U.S. that are that big.

PC in Dallas
Guest
PC in Dallas
May 8, 2008 4:58 AM

I don’t think the picture of Australia needs to be flipped. It is merely from an angle we are not used to seeing. Our brains have been trained to look at North to the top of the picture. I believe the land mass at the top of the photo is actually the South Pole during the South Pole’s summer (again we are trained to think of it as nothing but ice/snow but at certain times of the year, land is visible). I can’t see it well enough to know for sure.

PC in Dallas
Guest
PC in Dallas
May 8, 2008 5:12 AM

I tried to put a Google Earth layout next to the photo of Australia and in one sense, it does look like Australia needs to be flipped over. But then that would make Asia’s land mass wrong. And if the land mass at the top of the photo is Asia, why can’t we see any of the many islands between Australia and Asia? But there is a large mass of ocean between Australia and the south pole. The cloud cover makes it hard to see what angle the picture is from and whether it was developed upside down or inside out but I have to agree that Australia doesn’t quite look like it should.

baley
Guest
baley
May 8, 2008 5:36 AM

The Cassini picture of Earth From Saturn is really awesome. It will be my desktop for quite some time for sure!

Bob
Guest
Bob
May 8, 2008 7:35 AM

The “earthrise” original pic was not horizontal as is commonly depicted. The original photograph is a vertical photograph, i.e., the earth is on the left and the moon on the right. It has been published many times over in the incorrect format to fit the description.

The photograph was taken as the astronauts rounded the surface from the dark side… so it was never really an earth rise but rather the earth coming back into view.

Bill
Guest
Bill
May 8, 2008 11:11 AM

Wonderful photos thanks for posting.

My vision isnt what it used to be. I cant seem to spot the earth in the Cassini picture from Saturn. I see a whitish object in the very outer ring and more in the center of the picture. I doubt if thats Earth but if it isnt could some kind person be more specific as to its location

Thanks

Mauro
Guest
Mauro
May 8, 2008 7:48 PM

Of course it is Australia in the Rosetta picture of Earth.
If in the upper center it were South America, then where is Anctartica and the South Pole. Did it melt away already?

alphonso richardson
Guest
alphonso richardson
May 9, 2008 4:47 AM

Brilliant pictures
(and yes, it IS Australia…………………….)

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