NASA probe snaps Earth from 900 million miles away

Rob Waugh
Yahoo! News

Ever since the Apollo astronauts captured the first "Earthrise" photograph in 1968, showing our planet seen from near the surface of the moon, the world has been fascinated by images of Earth, taken from space.

On July 19 this year, NASA's Cassini spacecraft captured one of the most spectacular yet - Earth seen from nearly a billion miles away, glimpsed beside Saturn's rings during an eclipse of the sun.

The raw data arrived on Earth on Saturday, and astronomy fans have already begun to assemble the files into photographs - showing our planet as a tiny blue dot.

Valerie Klavans, image processing leader for an upcoming film, In Saturn's Rings, says, "This is a true colour composite of Saturn and Earth as seen by the Cassini spacecraft on July 19, 2013. These images were taken on July 19, 2013 and received on Earth July 20, 2013. The camera was pointing toward Saturn's E ring at approximately 857,326 miles away."

Last week, NASA urged people to look skywards and wave at Saturn in what was billed as an interplanetary photo op. NASA's own official pictures are still being processed.

                     [Related: Earth - seen from the Space Station]

“Ever since we caught sight of the Earth among the rings of Saturn in September 2006 in a mosaic that has become one of Cassini’s most beloved images, I have wanted to do it all over again, only better,” said Cassini imaging team leader, Carolyn Porco of the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado

Porco was involved in the famous “Pale Blue Dot” image of Earth taken by NASA’s Voyager 1 from beyond the orbit of Neptune in 1990.

Imaging any planetary body close to the Sun requires that the Sun is completely blocked, so that no undiluted sunlight can enter the cameras or other Cassini instruments and damage their sensitive detectors.

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