PhotoBomb Opportunity of Earth from Saturn

NASA Interplanetary Probes to Take Pictures of Earth From Space

Cassini is one of the most scientifically capable spacecraft ever launched. The mission has provided invaluable information for astrobiologists concerning Saturn’s moons, in particular Titan and Enceladus. Credit: NASA

Two NASA spacecraft, one studying the Saturn system, the other observing Mercury, maneuvered into place to take pictures of Earth on July 19 and 20.

The image taken from the Saturn system by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft occurred between 2:27 and 2:42 PDT (5:27 and 5:42 p.m. EDT, or 21:27 and 21:47 UTC) Friday, July 19. Cassini is nearly 900 million miles (nearly 1.5 billion kilometers) away from Earth. NASA encouraged 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 Cassini Earth portrait is part of a more extensive mosaic — or multi-image picture — of the Saturn system as it is backlit by the sun. The viewing geometry highlights the tiniest of ring particles and will allow scientists to see patterns within Saturn’s dusty rings. Processing of the Earth images is expected to take a few days, and processing of the full Saturn system mosaic will likely take several weeks.

Artist’s impression of the MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft as it left Earth. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

Inspired in part by the Cassini team’s plans to obtain a picture of Earth, scientists reexamined the planned observations of NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft in orbit around Mercury. They realized Earth is coincidentally expected to appear in some images taken in a search for natural satellites around Mercury on July 19 and 20. Those images will be taken at 4:49 a.m., 5:38 a.m. and 6:41 a.m. PDT (7:49 a.m., 8:38 a.m. and 9:41 a.m. EDT, or 11:49, 12:38, and 13:41 UTC) on both days. 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.

“It will be a day to revel in the extraordinary achievements in the exploration of our solar system that have made such an interplanetary photo session possible. And it will be a day for all of us to smile and celebrate life on the Pale Blue Dot. My fondest wish is that you, the people of the world, do exactly that.

I hope, at the appropriate time, regardless where or on which side of the planet you are, that you stop what you’re doing, go outside, gather together with friends and family, contemplate the utter isolation of our world in the never-ending blackness of space, relish its lush, life-sustaining beauty, appreciate the rarity it is among the Sun’s planets, and marvel at your own existence and that of all life on planet Earth.

And then, by all means, rejoice! Hoot and holler, twist and shout, raise a glass, make a toast, dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free, or celebrate in silence. Whatever it takes. But be sure to smile, knowing that others around the world are smiling too, in the sheer joy of simply being alive on a pale blue dot.”

– Carolyn Porco, leader of the Cassini Imaging Science team

Details on how to find Saturn in the sky are available at: http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/waveatsaturn .

The public can share pictures by using the hashtag #waveatsaturn on Twitter, or uploading pictures to the event’s Flickr page at: http://www.flickr.com/groups/wave_at_saturn/ .

The event’s Facebook page is: http://bit.ly/waveatsaturn .

Cassini mission scientists also participated in a live Ustream show on Friday from 2 to 2:30 p.m. PDT (5 to 5:30 p.m. EDT): http://www.ustream.com/nasajpl2 .

For more information about the two NASA spacecraft, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/cassini , http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov and http://www.nasa.gov/messenger .


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