Earth and Moon, As Seen From Mars

This picture was released a couple of days ago, but since it’s so special, it deserves a post on Universe Today. And besides, everyone secretly likes to look at pictures of themselves. And this is a picture of us: it’s the Earth and the moon, as seen from Mars. From the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, to be exact, and it was taken by the HiRISE Instrument on board, the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment. That’s the same camera that gave us the images of the avalanche on Mars, so the capabilities of this instrument are quite spectacular. This image was snapped back in October 2007, from a distance of 142 million kilometers, and if you look closely, you can make out a few features on Earth.

The west coast outline of South America is at lower right on Earth, although the clouds are the dominant features. In fact, the clouds were so bright, compared with the Moon, that they almost completely saturated the filters on the HiRISE camera. The people working on HiRISE say this image required a fair amount of processing to make a such a nice-looking picture. Yes, I agree, we are looking quite nice.

The phase angle is 98 degrees, which means that less than half of the disks of the Earth and Moon have direct illumination from the sun; that’s the reason we only see about half of each object. The scientists working on HiRISE say they would be able to image the Earth and moon when they are fully illuminated, but only when they are on the opposite side of the sun from Mars. However, then the distance would be much greater and the image would show less detail.

At this distance, this HiRISE image has a scale of 142 km/pixel, giving the Earth diameter about 90 pixels and the Moon diameter 24 pixels.

And now, back to the target that HiRISE was originally designed for: Mars. Here’s a very colorful (and false color) image that highlights the different minerals in Nili Fossae on Mars, one of the potential landing sites for the Mars Science Laboratory rover. From the CRISM instrument, the on-board spectrometer, scientists can discern that this area on Mars contains iron and magnesium, minerals that also contain water.
Nili Fossae on Mars.  Image Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Original News Source: HiRISE Web page

24 Replies to “Earth and Moon, As Seen From Mars”

  1. This is awesome!

    and so, this is how we look when aliens are watching us…

    I’m an old reader, just my first commnet.

    thanks for making this site! have a nice day

  2. How come in the picture taken of the earth and moon, there are now stars in the background?


  3. The HiRise Camera has an impressive magnification, at a distance of 300km it can show details of 20-30cm per pixel, however the camera viewport is only 1,14° × 0,18°. It is very likely that there are no visible (bright enough) stars in such an area that match the same exposure time as the bright earth and moon in the foreground.

    If you were in mars orbit and looked to where the earth is supposed to be, you would only see a very faint dot, if anyting. And in very close proximity to earth, there wouldn’t be any equally bright objects.

  4. Earth and Moon here are very bright and wash out the dimmer background stars in the imager. Well unless you are a conspiracy theorist, in which case this is just like the moon landings, another fake-out by NASA.

  5. Conspiracy theorists would say that the Earth and Luna were just scaled models hanging in front of a black felt background.

    Excuse me while I roll my eyes.

    This is an amazing shot. To know HiRISE achieved that makes me wonder what else it can actually see on Mars. I wish the shot was a little bigger and had slightly better resolution. Aside from that, it makes a great desktop picture.

  6. Hi guys, me again, the 11 yr-old genius (not quite, but I am smart!).

    Those conspiracy theorists are nutters, but I would like them to read me bed-time stories! Their ideas would make a fasinating book. I would buy it, no matter what the price.

    Anyway, that is a gorgeous picture and the HiRISE did well on that one.

    Eric, I agree. It is a great desktop picture!!


  7. I believe there has been editing to this image… I think I read somewhere (BadAstronomy perhaps?) that the Moon was made brighter in this image. The Earth naturally has a higher albedo than the Moon, so the image was adjusted for symmetry.

    Perhaps a couple stars were smudged out too.

  8. So this is what H.G.Wells/Richard Burton meant with ‘Across the gulf of space…’ Now I know what the Martians saw when ‘They drew there plans against us’….

  9. Think about it !!!
    Thats us down there walking around that round rock.
    Its like Ptolemy said astronomy is the science of Gods…

  10. by the way.

    this is more or less how you would see earth and moon from the sun.
    The distance sun earth is 149 million km.
    The distance here was 142 million km.

  11. It would be nice to see the unadulterated picture. I think they have added too much blue to the earth.

  12. Observing the Earth/Moon system would be one of the joys of Martian stargazing.

  13. The stars are missing because they’ve been removed. This is done in all images from Nasa and other organisations, it’s NOTHING to do with exposure levels, etc. For some reason Nasa don’t want us to see the stars.
    Even when there’s a full moon viewed from earth the stars are visible. Something “fishy” is going on here…

  14. Its an us and them situation. They know something we don’t and they’re not gonna let on what it is. Its not just a secret, its THE secret…

  15. How come this picture was taken from a distance of 142 MM kilometers and Mars at about rhis time is just about 100 MM away from Earth?

  16. Several things, I wonder how long the exposure was? And, considering the pixel density at that distance (142 km/pixel), would it be no wonder that a star did not make an appearance?

    Thought it was worth asking…

  17. Mauro, looks like you might be correct. I did a quick check of distances (per the CalSky website) and on 15 October 2007 Mars was at a distance of about 0.87 AU, or 130344160.2 km, which is about 80.992 million miles.


  18. One would think that the Earth seen from Mars would be at least as bright as Mars is sen on Earth.

    The stars cannot be seen in this photo because they are much dimmer than the Earth or Moon. They are underexposed. If the camera were adjusted to see stars, the image of the earth would be overexposed.

  19. Hmm… I do not know about all the scientific and techy stuff about camera’s and exposures and distances betwn earth/sun/mars moon at particular date and time….
    but I showed this picture to everyone present today in my office (30 ppl) and EVERYONE thought that its a fake foto !!

    Once you put this pic. as ur wallpaper on desktop… (1280*1024) …it appears even more manipulated !….

    Enough research tends to support whatever theory !


Comments are closed.