Nasa's spectacular image of Saturn shows 'the day the Earth smiled'
The image above (click for full screen) was taken from within the shadow of Saturn and shows an area 404,880 miles (651,591 kilometers) across.
Nasa has released a new photograph of Saturn described as “perhaps the most unusual image ever taken in the history of the space programme”.
Taken four months ago from the Cassini spacecraft, the image - actually a mosaic of images - shows Saturn eclipsing the sun, with Mars, Venus and Earth all appearing as tiny dots besides the second largest planet in the solar system.
The photograph is partly a tribute to the famous “Pale Blue Dot” image taken by the Voyager 1 spacecraft in 1990. As the craft prepared to leave the solar system US astronomer Carl Sagan requested that it take a “last look back”, photographing the Earth as a “fraction of a dot” in the vastness of space.
“Consider again that dot,” wrote Sagan in 1997. “That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.”
This recent photograph shows something similar, with the Earth appearing as a blue dot (bright, perhaps, rather than pale) towards the bottom right of the image underneath Saturn and its rings.
The Earth and Moon (circled). Credit: Nasa
However, the day the image was taken (19 July) also coincided with an event called ‘The Day The Earth Smiled’ which encouraged people the world over to gather their friends, and go outside to consider their place in the universe:
“I hope, at the appropriate time […] that you stop what you're doing, go outside [and] 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.”
Dr Carolyn Porco, who organised the event and was instrumental in capturing the original Pale Blue Dot image, described the photograph for the BBC as capturing "the very moment, frozen in time, when the inhabitants of our planet took a break from their normal activities to go outside and acknowledge our "coming of age" as planetary explorers."
"I hope long into the future, when people look again at this image, they will recall the moment when, as crazy as it might have seemed, they were there, they were aware, and they smiled," writes Dr Porco.
Mars, Venus, and the Earth and Moon are shown on the photograph. Credit: Nasa
- 1 Reader dilemma: 'Our son is 34 with an IQ of 85, and spends all his time in his room. What will happen to him when we're no longer here?'
- 2 Tunisia hotel attack: Locals form 'human shield' to protect hotel from gunman Seifeddine Rezgui
- 3 Russian officials ban yoga because it's too much like a religious cult
- 4 German ethics council calls for incest between siblings to be legalised by Government
- 5 Ginger Pride festival to take place next summer, organisers say 'time of bullying gingers is over'
Tunisia hotel attack: Locals form 'human shield' to protect hotel from gunman Seifeddine Rezgui
German ethics council calls for incest between siblings to be legalised by Government
People are American flagging their Facebook profile pictures in response to those rainbow flagging them
Ginger Pride festival to take place next summer, organisers say 'time of bullying gingers is over'
Historic meeting between Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox head 'getting closer'
The moment a Queen's Guard soldier lost it and drew his gun at annoying tourist
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Pentagon accuses Russia of 'playing with fire' over nuclear threats towards Nato
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
They are neither a 'state' nor 'Islamic': Why we shouldn't call them Isis, Isil or IS
£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...
£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...
£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...
£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...