NASA has unveiled spectacular portraits of Earth and its moon from billions of miles away in images captured on July 19 and released by the teams behind the agency's Cassini spacecraft at Saturn and its Messenger probe at Mercury. In the photos from Saturn, Earth appears as a tiny pinprick of light amid the haunting rings and glowing sphere of Saturn, which Cassini has been orbiting since 2004. Though the picture doesn't show it, more than 20,000 people on Earth waved at Saturn at just the time the photo was taken, as NASA had coordinated a plan to involve as many Earthlings as possible in the portrait. The cosmic picture took advantage of a rare total eclipse of the sun from Saturn, which allowed Cassini's sensitive cameras to image Earth without being damaged from looking directly toward the sun, which appears to lie very close to our planet from the perspective of Saturn. The photo shows Earth from a vantage point of 898 million miles (1.4 billion kilometers) away.
This NASA handout image taken on July 19, 2013 and received on Earth July 20, 2013 shows a raw image of the Earth-Moon system as captured by the Cassini mission orbiting Saturn in the outer Solar System. Earth is the brighter of the two spots near the center, while the Moon is visible to its lower left. The camera was pointing toward Earth at approximately 898,412,483 miles (1,445,854,740 kilometers) away, and the image was taken using the CL1 and GRN filters. This image has not been validated or calibrated. Amazing Space Photos This artist's impression shows a red giant engulfing a Jupiter-like planet as it expands. Astronomers searching the skies for distant planets have detected two Saturn-sized worlds orbiting distant suns, the smallest planets found thus far outside our solar system. The discovery boosted the likelihood that even smaller planets - perhaps the size of Earth - exist elsewhere in the universe, Professor Steve Vogt of the University of California-Santa Cruz said. This artists concept shows a view of the discovered planet orbiting 79 Ceti. Reuters An artist rendering illustrates the newly discovered world (HAT-P-1) that has baffled astronomers, since the planet is much larger than theory predicts, scientists said September 14, 2006. HAT-P-1 has a radius about 1.38 times Jupiter's but contains only half Jupiter's mass. REUTERS/David A. Aguilar (CfA)/Handout An artist's impression shows a unique type of exoplanet discovered with the Hubble Space Telescope. The planet is so close it to its star that it completes an orbit in 10.5 hours. The planet is only 750,000 miles from the star, or 1/130th the distance between Earth and the Sun. The Jupiter-sized planet orbits an unnamed red dwarf star that lies in the direction of the Galactic Centre; the exact stellar distance is unknown. REUTERS/NASA/ESA/A. Schaller/Handout NASA handout image shows an artist's concept of the planet Kepler-16b with its two stars. The cold planet, with its gaseous surface, is not thought to be habitable. The largest of the two stars, a K dwarf, is about 69 percent the mass of our sun, and the smallest, a red dwarf, is about 20 percent the sun's mass. These star pairs are called eclipsing binaries. REUTERS/NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt/Handout This handout illustration obtained by Reuters October 11, 2012, shows the interior of the planet 55 Cancri e - an extremely hot planet with a surface of mostly graphite surrounding a thick layer of diamond, below which is a layer of silicon-based minerals and a molten iron core at the center. REUTERS/Haven Giguere/Yale University/Handout NASA handout image shows an artist's concept of the circumbinary planet Kepler-16b - the first planet known to definitively orbit two stars. The cold planet, with its gaseous surface, is not thought to be habitable. The largest of the two stars, a K dwarf, is about 69 percent the mass of our sun, and the smallest, a red dwarf, is about 20 percent the sun's mass. These star pairs are called eclipsing binaries. REUTERS/NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle/Handout This artist's impression shows a sunset seen from the super-Earth Gliese 667 Cc. The brightest star in the sky is the red dwarf Gliese 667 C, which is part of a triple star system. The other two more distant stars, Gliese 667 A and B appear in the sky also to the right. Astronomers have estimated that there are tens of billions of such rocky worlds orbiting faint red dwarf stars in the Milky Way alone. REUTERS/ESO/L. CalÁada/Handout A handout photo from the European Space Agency released December 10, 2008 shows an artist's impression of the Jupiter-size extrasolar planet, HD 189733b, being eclipsed by its parent star. Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have measured carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide in the planet's atmosphere. The planet is a ?hot Jupiter?, so close to its parent star that it completes an orbit in only 2.2 days. This type of observation is best carried out when the planet's orbit takes it behind the star (as seen from Earth), allowing for an opportunity to subtract the light of the star alone (when the planet is hidden behind it) from that of the star and planet together before an eclipse. This allows astronomers to isolate the infrared emission of the planet and carry out spectroscopic observations that chemically analyse the dayside atmosphere. REUTERS/ESA/NASA/M. Kornmesser (ESA/Hubble)/STScI. Handout picture released June 14, 2005 shows an artist's conception of a newly discovered planet being shown as a hot, rocky, geologically active world glowing in the deep red light of its nearby parent star, the M dwarf Gliese 876. The heat and the reddish light are among the few things about the new planet that are certain, depending on the thickness and composition of its atmosphere - if any - it could range from being a barren, cratered ball of rock like Mercury or the Moon, to being a featureless, cloud-shrouded cue-ball like Venus. REUTERS/Trent Schindler/National Science Foundation/Handout HK/KS GJ1214b, shown in this artist’s view, is a super-Earth orbiting a red dwarf star 40 light-years from Earth. New observations from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope show that it is a waterworld enshrouded by a thick, steamy atmosphere. GJ 1214b represents a new type of planet, like nothing seen in the Solar System or any other planetary system currently known. CREDIT: NASA, ESA, and D. Aguilar (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) This infrared image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the Helix nebula, a cosmic starlet often photographed by amateur astronomers for its vivid colors and eerie resemblance to a giant eye. Photo by: NASA/JPL-Caltech/WISE Team Scorpion's claw- In this image released on Sept. 21, 2010, the WISE telescope captured an infrared view of nebula DG 129, gripped in the claw of the constellation Scorpius. The bright, greenish star on the right is Pi Scorpii, which marks one of the claws of the scorpion in the constellation Scorpius. DG 129 was first catalogued in 1963 by two German astronomers named Johann Dorschner and Josef GÃ¼rtler. Photo by: NASA/JPL-Caltech/WISE Team Rosette nebula- This WISE image shows off the flower-shaped nebula, NGC 2237, also known as the rosette nebula. The nebula is a massive, star-forming cloud of gas and dust located within the constellation Monoceres, or the Unicorn. Photo by: NASA/JPL-Caltech/WISE Team Jellyfish nebula- This WISE images shows IC 443, also known as the jellyfish nebula, which is located 5,000 light-years away from Earth inside the Gemini constellation. About 5,000 to 10,000 years ago, a massive star at the center exploded, forming a jellyfish-shaped shell around its remains.