Earth, as seen from 900 million miles away (with new photos)

<i> This post has been corrected. See note at bottom for details. </i>

Need a little perspective in your life? Take a look at these images of Earth as seen from almost 900 million miles away.

In these new images released by NASA, our planet is dwarfed by Saturn’s breathtaking rings, and shows up as just a pale blue dot -- a tiny asterisk beneath Saturn’s striking beauty.

The dot is so small, it would seem insignificant if you didn’t know you were looking at our own watery home.

Awesome images of Saturn and its rings


The first few images in the gallery above were taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft on Friday July 19. Cassini is in orbit around Saturn, and at the time of the long-distance photo shoot, it was about 898.5 million miles from Earth.

Earth rarely shows up in Cassini’s images because from the spacecraft’s perspective, our planet is usually too close to the sun to photograph. (Cassini, like you and me, can’t look at the sun for too long without suffering damage.)

But on Friday, Saturn moved between Cassini and the sun, casting the spacecraft in shadow and allowing it to look back toward the inner solar system without the risk of ruining the detectors on its cameras. Thanks to this orbital geometry, Saturn’s rings were also backlit by the sun, giving Cassini the rare opportunity to snap images of the powdery dust in Saturn’s rings in hyper-sharp detail.

NASA’s social media team made a big deal of the 15-minute window when Cassini’s lenses were trained on Earth, and created the “Wave at Saturn” campaign that encouraged people from all over the world to wave vigorously at a camera positioned hundreds of millions of miles away.

On Monday, NASA released some of the images of Earth captured by Cassini, including the first image to show the moon and Earth as two distinctive bodies by a camera located so far away.

In about six weeks, the agency will release a mosaic image of all of Saturn and its rings, with Earth just barely visible below it -- but that image will take a long time to stitch together, NASA officials said.

And as a surprise bonus, NASA also released a few images of Earth as seen from Messenger, a probe in orbit around Mercury 61 million miles away.

The Messenger images of our planet, which are more fuzzy and slightly less spectacular than the Cassini images, were also taken July 19.

[For the record, July 22, 7:22 p.m.: An earlier version of this post said the Cassini spacecraft was 898,500 million miles from Earth. The correct figure is 898.5 million.]


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