This picture of Earth from Mars was captured by the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft orbiting Mars. It is possible to make out the Pacific Ocean, clouds, much of South America, and part of North America. Earth’s Moon is visible on the upper right, with the large crater Tycho brightening the lower part.
Well, you are if you’re over 15 years old. Back in 2006, the Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn drifted in giant planet’s shadow and looked back toward the eclipsed Sun. Saturn’s rings lit up so much that new rings were discovered, although they are hard to see in this image. Saturn’s E ring, the ring created by the newly discovered ice-fountains of the moon Enceladus and the outermost ring visible above, does show up in vivid detail. Far in the distance, at about 10 o’clock on the left, just above the bright main rings, is the almost ignorable pale blue dot of Earth. You may have to click on the image to embiggen it in order to see the Earth.
One of the most famous images of Earth was taken by Voyager 1 when it was 6 billion km from home. The Earth is a single pixel in that picture called The Pale Blue Dot. Voyager 1 was just about 12,000,000 km above Mt. Everest when it took this picture of the Earth and the Moon on 18 September, 1977. The Moon is on the far side of the Earth in this picture which shows East Asia, the Western Pacific, and part of the Arctic. Mt. Everest in hidden from view on the night side of the Earth.
This is the Earth-Moon system as seen by the Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn in the outer Solar System. Earth is the larger of the two spots near the center; the Moon is to its lower left. This raw, unprocessed image shows several streaks that are not stars. They are cosmic rays that struck the digital camera while it was taking the picture.
Click the image to embiggen it. No, really, do it, and click on the new image a second time. You can use your BACK button to return.
On 19 July, 2013, the Cassini spacecraft slipped into Saturn’s shadow and turned to image the planet, seven of its moons, its inner rings,and—in the background—Earth.
With the Sun eclipsed by Saturn, Cassini‘s cameras were able to take advantage of this unusual viewing geometry. A panoramic mosaic of the Saturn system was taken that allows details in the rings backlit by the sun to be seen. This event was the third time Earth was imaged from the outer solar system.
Cassini captured 323 images in just over four hours. This final mosaic uses 141 of them. Images taken using the red, green, and blue spectral filters of the wide-angle camera were combined to create this natural-color view. This image spans a bit more than 650,000 km.
The HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter took this picture of the Earth and Moon from orbit around Mars in November, 2016. The reddish area in the center of the Earth’s image is Australia.
On 10 April, the ESA BepiColumbo spacecraft flew by Earth during a gravity assist maneouver on its way to Mercury. This 360-degree VR simulation of the flyby takes you on a trip past Earth at the distance of only 12,700 km. The simulation displays the fields of view a pair of BepiColombo’s science instruments (MERTIS and PHEBUS) and two of its three MCAM selfie cameras.
This picture was taken from the International Space Station orbiting at an altitude of 390 km. The terminator is the line between day and night. In pictures of airless moons it’s a firm line, but no such sharp boundary marks the division between day and night in this picture of ocean and clouds on Earth. Instead, the shadow line is diffuse and shows the gradual transition to darkness as twilight falls. The Sun illuminates the scene from the right, and the cloud tops reflect gently reddened sunlight filtered through the troposphere, the lowest layer of the atmosphere. The upper atmosphere scatters blue sunlight and fades into the blackness of space.
This is an updated version of the Pale Blue Dot image taken by the Voyager 1 spacecraft 30 years ago today. It was created using modern image-processing software and techniques while trying to remain faithful to the original. Like the original, this new color view shows the Earth as a single blue pixel in the vastness of space. Rays of sunlight scattered within the camera optics stretch across the scene, one of which intersects with Earth. Look closely at the stripe just right of center. That speck a bit past half way up isn’t dust on your screen. It’s the Earth.
The image was taken just before Voyager 1’s cameras were turned off to conserve power because the probe would not make another planetary flyby. Shutting down instruments and other systems on the two Voyager spacecraft has been a gradual and ongoing process that has helped keep them running as they have left the Solar System.
This video takes us around the Moon and shows how it is illuminated not only by the brilliant light of the Sun but also by light reflected from the Earth. The trip starts on the side facing away from Earth where part of the surface is brightly illuminated by the Sun but the rest is totally dark. Moving around the Moon, the Earth rises, and its reflected bluish light illuminates the Moon’s surface. This dull glow is the earthshine. (You can clearly see it from Earth when the Moon appears as a crescent in the evening or morning sky.) When the Sun emerges from behind the Moon, the brilliant crescent is seen, but the earthshine is still faintly visible.
… here in the Northern Hemisphere. The equinox occurred last week. At an equinox Earth’s terminator, the dividing line between day and night, runs through the planet’s north and south poles as seen at the start of this time-lapse video which crams an entire year into twelve seconds. It was put together using Meteosat infrared images taken every day at the same local time from a geosynchronous orbit. The video actually starts at the September 2010 equinox. As the Earth revolves around the Sun, the terminator tilts as less daily sunlight falls on the northern hemisphere, reaching the solstice and northern hemisphere winter at the maximum tilt. As the year continues, the terminator tilts back again to the March 2011 equinox halfway through the video. Then the terminator swings past the poles, until the June 2011 solstice, the start of northern summer. The video ends as the September equinox returns.
Because the amount of energy necessary for an interplanetary flight is available from practical launch vehicles, spacecraft often use a planet’s gravity to provide some of the energy needed for final trajectories. Properly executed, one or more gravity assist flybys can be enough to change a spacecraft’s speed and direction so it can enter orbit around another world or fly off into the Kuiper Belt or even interstellar space.
This view of Earth was captured in 2007 on the second of three Earth flybys made by ESA’s comet-chasing Rosetta spacecraft on its ten year journey to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
The Parker Solar Probe is inbound for its rendezvous with the Sun. On 25 September, it took a look back at the Earth with its wide-field image and snapped this picture. The bulge on the right isn’t part of the Earth. It’s the Moon.