Earthlings Wave at Saturn as Cassini Images Us

Earth Waves at Saturn and Cassini on July 19, 2013
From more than 40 countries and 30 U.S. states, people around the world shared more than 1,400 images of themselves as part of the Wave at Saturn event organized by NASA’s Cassini mission on July 19, 2013. The Cassini team created this image collage as a tribute to the people of Earth
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/People of Earth
See link below to the absolutely gigantic full resolution version [/caption]

On July 19, millions of Earthlings worldwide participated in NASA’s ‘Wave at Saturn’ campaign as the NASA Cassini Saturn orbiter turned about and imaged all of us.

Earthlings from 40 countries and 30 U.S. states heeded NASA’s call to photograph themselves while smiling and waving at Saturn and Cassini across 1 billion miles of interplanetary space and shared over 1400 images.

The results of all those images has now been assembled into a fabulous collage in the shape of our planet and released today (Aug. 21) by NASA and the Cassini team as a tribute to the People of Earth.

“Did you wave at Saturn and send us your photo? Then here’s looking at you!” NASA announced on the Cassini Facebook page.

This event was the first time that the citizens of Earth knew in advance that a distant interplanetary spacecraft was photographing portraits of our home planet and our Moon. NASA invited everyone to participate.

Photos flooded into NASA via Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, Google+ and email.

Click here for the full resolution version. But be forewarned – it weighs in at over 26 MB and it’s far too big to post here.

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

“Thanks to all of you, near and far, old and young, who joined the Cassini mission in marking the first time inhabitants of Earth had advance notice that our picture was being taken from interplanetary distances,” said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif, in a statement.

“While Earth is too small in the images Cassini obtained to distinguish any individual human beings, the mission has put together this collage so that we can celebrate all your waving hands, uplifted paws, smiling faces and artwork.”

The Cassini imaging science team is still assembling the hundreds of images of Saturn and Earth snapped by the spacecraft as we were waving, to create individual color composites and a panoramic view of the ‘pale blue dot’ and the entire Saturnian system.

To capture all of Saturn and its wide swath of rings, Cassini’s wide angle camera snapped a mosaic of 33 footprints on July 19, 2013.

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

Cassini took the pictures of Earth from a distance of about 898 million miles (1.44 billion kilometers) away from the home to every human being that has ever lived.

Here is our partial version of Cassini’s mosaic.

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 Cassini wide angle camera raw images and offers a sneak peek of the complete panorama. Earth at lower right. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Ken Kremer/Marco Di Lorenzo

Cassini was launched from Florida in 1997.

It achieved orbit at Saturn in 2004 and has transmitted breathtaking images and science that revolutionized our understanding of the Saturnian system.

The mission is scheduled to continue until 2017 when it will commit a suicide death dive into the humongous gas giant.

Coincidentally, the first humans (Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin) set foot on the Moon 44 years ago nearly to the day of Cassini’s Earth-Moon portrait on July 20, 1969 aboard Apollo 11.

And likewise on July 19, 2013, billionaire space enthusiast Jeff Bezos announced that his dive teams had recovered components of an Apollo 11 first stage F-1 rocket engine from the Saturn V moon rocket that propelled the first humans to the Moon.

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

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
See below our wider context mosaic of the Earth, Saturn and its majestic rings[/caption]

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

You Can Now PhotoBomb Spacecraft Images of Earth Not Once, But Twice This Weekend

You’ve hopefully heard about the chance to have your picture taken this Friday – along with the rest of humanity – by the Cassini spacecraft, currently about 1 billion km away as it orbits Saturn. But now another spacecraft has joined in on the fun.

Inspired in part by the Cassini team, scientists from the MESSENGER mission at Mercury realized their upcoming orbital parameters has Earth coincidentally in the crosshairs of its cameras as it takes images to search for natural satellites around Mercury on July 19 and 20. So we’ve got not one, but TWO spacecraft to smile at, pose for, and generally be on good behavior as they take pictures of planet Earth. Here’s when you should be smiling and waving:

MESSENGER will be taking images at 11:49, 12:38, and 13:41 UTC (4:49 a.m., 5:38 a.m. and 6:41 a.m. PDT or 7:49 a.m., 8:38 a.m. and 9:41 a.m. EDT, or) on both days, July 19 and 20. Parts of Earth not illuminated in the Cassini images, including all of Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia, will appear illuminated in the MESSENGER images. MESSENGER’s images also will take a few days to process prior to release, the team said.

The image taken from the Saturn system by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will occur between 21:27 and 21:47 UTC (2:27 and 2:42 PDT, 5:27 and 5:42 p.m. EDT) on Friday, July 19. Cassini will be nearly 900 million miles (nearly 1.5 billion kilometers) away from Earth. NASA is encouraging the public to look and wave in the direction of Saturn at the time of the portrait and share their pictures via the Internet.

The 'Wave at Saturn" event will be the first time Earthlings have had advance notice that their picture will be taken from interplanetary distances. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
The ‘Wave at Saturn” event will be the first time Earthlings have had advance notice that their picture will be taken from interplanetary distances. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

If Saturn isn’t in your field of view at the time, you can join in online to take a look at Saturn with Gianluca Masi and the Virtual Telescope Project from Italy.

Also, at the exact time the Cassini spacecraft is snapping pics of Earth, the Slooh Space Camera will be snapping images of Saturn – live and in true color – with live broadcast team. Their feed starts at 2:30 PM PDT / 5:30 PM EDT / 21:30 UTC with live views of Saturn from the Canary Islands.

We’ll embed the feed here:

There are events associated with this Wave at Saturn event, and we’ll repost the info from our previous article:

For all our astrophotographer friends out there, in cooperation with Astronomers Without Borders, TDTES is sponsoring a Saturn Mosaic project, where you can submit an image you’ve taken of Saturn. Urgency note: this has to be submitted by July 22, 2013.

Astronomers Without Borders is also sponsoring a special Saturn Observing Program, and they are encouraging people and organizations to either organize a special observing event for July 19 (you can register it as an official event here) or to attend an event near you. You can find TDTES events here. This can be a full-blown observing event with telescopes, or just an excuse to get together with friends to go out and look at Saturn in the night sky.

There are also two competitions — one is to submit photos that best represents Earth (the image must be taken on July 19, 2013) and another is to write an original song about this event. The digital versions of the winning entries will be beamed to space at a later date.

Find more information at The Day The Earth Smiled website, and the Astronomers Without Borders website.

NASA also has info about events for the #Wave at Saturn event, including charts on where and when to look for Saturn in the night sky here. NASA says these charts take into account the light travel time from Saturn.