PALE BLUE DOT: Last Friday, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft photographed Earth through the rings of Saturn. Our planet has been photographed twice before from the outer solar system, but this is the first time it has been recorded in natural color, as human eyes would see it. In the image, just released by NASA, Earth is a pale blue dot:
Normally, distant spacecraft cannot photograph Earth because Earth is so close to the sun. Glare prevents imaging. Cassini took advantage of a rare eclipse of the sun by Saturn itself. With the sun blocked by the body of the ringed planet, Earth became visible to Cassini’s cameras.
The picture of Earth is only one footprint in a mosaic of 33 footprints covering the entire Saturn ring system. “Seeing the whole mosaic of the backlit rings when it is put together will be incredible,” says Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Researchers are working on the ensemble now, and they expect it to be ready in a few weeks.