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

Aaron Hernandez trail delayed by bomb threat

Former New England Patriots football player Aaron Hernandez listens during a motion regarding jail phone recordings during his murder trial at the Bristol County Superior Court in Fall River, Mass., on Wednesday, March 25, 2015. Hernandez is accused in the June 2013 killing of Odin Lloyd.

A bomb threat has delayed proceedings of the Aaron Hernandez murder trial.

in National, World

Police search house of pilot who crashed A320

Updated
Police hold media away from the house where Andreas Lubitz lived in Montabaur, Germany, Thursday, March 26, 2015. Lubitz was the copilot on flight Germanwings 9525 that crashed with 150 people on board on Tuesday in the French Alps. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

The co-pilot of the airliner that crashed in the French Alps, killing all 150 people aboard, appears to have brought the plane down deliberately.

in National, World

PHOTOS: Crash of Germanwings Flight 9525

AP41207304817_9

All 150 people on board the jet - including three Americans - were killed Tuesday when it crashed in the French Alps.

in Lifestyle

Eyes on the road: AAA says distracted driving worse than we thought

driving

You know how some people insist they can drive safely — even while they fiddle with their smartphones or other electronic devices? They can't.

in Sports

GPS can’t help Cubs pitcher find his way

edwinjackson

You've heard of baseball pitchers who have trouble finding the plate. How about a pitcher who can't even find the ballpark?