Earth Looks Teeny-Tiny In These New Images Taken From Saturn

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Back in July, the Earth posed for a celestial shot and us earthlings were encouraged to "Wave at Saturn."

NASA's Cassini spacecraft was ready to click a cosmic shot of Earth from far beyond Saturn. This is only the third time in history we've gotten this chance to take a picture from this far out in our solar system.

The image was taken from nearly 900 million miles away. In the image, Saturn is backlit from the sun, which illuminates its rings. The spacecraft usually can't face this way, because the sun's rays would damage its cameras.

Cassini took the image from about 746,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers) away from Saturn. Each pixel that makes up the planet is about 45 miles (72 kilometers) wide.

The resulting huge image was stitched together from 141 smaller shots. It took about four hours to take all the images. According to NASA, the image below spans about 404,880 miles (651,591 kilometers) across.

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saturn earth moon

NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

See (and zoom in on) the original image at NASA, where they've also provided more information about the planet's rings.

What looks like a non-existent speck in the original image can be blown up to see the few pixels that are the Earth. The pixels coming from the planets have actually been brightened by a factor of 8 1/2 compared to Saturn's luminance to make them more visible:

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Earth and moon

NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

Actually, if you zoom in enough and look really closely, it looks like you can see the individual pixel that is the light reflected off the Moon:

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earth and moon zoom

NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

In this other picture, from the same photoshoot, the Earth and Moon can be seen clearly, though they are still just small bright dots:

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earth and moon alone

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

These versions of the images from Cassini are a fair bit better than earlier mock-ups of the shot, created by amateurs using raw images from NASA's website.



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