Saturn's rings with Earth in the background
Two NASA spacecraft have returned new photos of Earth, taken from millions of miles away.
The Cassini spacecraft is perched in the Saturn system nearly 900 million miles away, as part of a cooperative project between NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Italian Space Agency. In this rare image, taken on July 19, 2013, the wide-angle camera on Cassini shows Saturn's rings with Earth visible in the background.
Photos like this are very rare, this is only the third time our planet has been photographed from the outer solar system. From millions and millions of miles away, Earth appears very close to our sun. Just like our eyes, the camera's extremely sensitive sensors can easily be damaged by looking directly toward the sun.
Cassini was able to take this image, NASA says, because the sun had temporarily moved behind Saturn from the spacecraft's point of view and most of its light had been blocked.
Earth and the moon are less than a pixel in size in this image, but appear larger because they have been overexposed by the long exposure used to capture the image.
Long exposures -- about 15 minutes in this case -- are necessary in order to capture enough light from extremely distant and dim objects in space. As a result, brighter objects in the field of view become saturated and appear artificially large.
Correction, July 23 at 10:45 a.m. PT: An earlier version of this image gallery misspelled the name of the Cassini spacecraft and misstated where in space the images were taken. This is only the third time ever that Earth has been imaged from the outer solar system. It has also been clarified that the Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Italian Space Agency.
July 22, 2013 4:42 PM PDT
Photo by: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
| Caption by: James Martin
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