News

Smaller, paler Earth unveiled in new NASA photo

Smaller, paler Earth unveiled in new NASA photo

The wide-angle camera on NASA's Cassini spacecraft has captured Saturn's rings and planet Earth and its moon in the same frame in this rare image taken on July 19, 2013 courtesy of NASA. Photo: Reuters/NASA/Handout

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) – A robotic space probe nearly 900 million miles from Earth turned its gaze away from Saturn and its entourage of moons to take a picture of its home planet, NASA said on Monday.

The resulting image shows Earth as a very small, blue-tinged dot – paler and tinier than in other photos – overshadowed by the giant Saturn’s rings in foreground.

“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,” Linda Spilker, Cassini spacecraft lead scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement.

Cassini snapped the picture on Friday, the same day NASA’s Mercury-orbiting MESSENGER probe imaged Earth as well. In that picture, Earth and the moon take up less than a pixel, but appear large because they are overexposed.

“That images of our planet have been acquired on a single day from two distant solar system outposts reminds us of this nation’s stunning technical accomplishments in planetary exploration,” MESSENGER lead scientist Sean Solomon, with Columbia University in New York, said in a statement.

“The whole event underscores for me our ‘coming of age’ as planetary explorers,” added astronomer Carolyn Porco, who oversees the Cassini imaging team at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

Usually, spacecraft in the far reaches of the solar system don’t look back toward Earth to avoid damaging their instruments by direct sunlight. Last week, the sun was temporarily blocked relative to Cassini’s line of sight, allowing the U.S. space agency to take the picture.

Recent Headlines

in Sports

Hernandez murder trial to start in January

Fresh
hernandez

Former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez will be tried in January for the murder of semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd last summer.

in Sports

CEO: Clippers will lose players if Sterling stays

Fresh
sterling

The L.A. Clippers CEO says the team could face an exodus of players, sponsors, and fans if embattled owner Donald Sterling is still associated with the team.

in Sports

‘Johnny Football’ has a month to win Browns QB job

manziel

Johnny Manziel has found instant popularity since being drafted by the Cleveland Browns, but will have to wait until to find out if he has the starting quarterback job.

in Music

George Harrison memorial tree killed by actual beetles

harrison

A tree planted in honor of the late Beatle has been devoured by bugs.

in Sports

Cavs plan to sign No. 1 draft pick Wiggins

wiggins

The delay in signing the rookie shooting guard is reportedly not related to speculation the team may trade him to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Love.