Click to enlargeEarth & Moon from Saturn Photo

Buy this Earth & Moon from Saturn photo. High quality Cassini space picture, poster, slide, or Duratrans backlit transparency. NASA Photograph PIA17172. Wide variety of sizes. Click to see selection as Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) - November 13, 2013

The Day the Earth Smiled
On July 19, 2013, in an event celebrated the world over, NASA's Cassini spacecraft slipped into Saturn's shadow and turned to image the planet, seven of its moons, its inner rings -- and, in the background, our home planet, Earth. This mosaic is special as it marks the third time our home planet was imaged from the outer solar system; the second time it was imaged by Cassini from Saturn's orbit; and the first time ever that inhabitants of Earth were made aware in advance that their photo would be taken from such a great distance.

This image spans about 404,880 miles across. The outermost ring shown here is Saturn's E ring. Diffraction by sunlight gives the ring its blue color. Enceladus and the extended plume formed by its jets are visible, embedded in the E ring on the left side of the mosaic.

At the 12 o'clock position and a bit inward from the E ring lies the barely discernible ring created by the tiny, Cassini-discovered moon, Pallene. The next narrow and easily seen ring inward is the G ring. Interior to the G ring, near the 11 o'clock position, one can barely see the more diffuse ring created by the co-orbital moons, Janus and Epimetheus. Farther inward, we see the very bright F ring closely encircling the main rings of Saturn.

Following the outermost E ring counter-clockwise from Enceladus, the moon Tethys appears as a large yellow orb just outside of the E ring. Tethys is positioned on the illuminated side of Saturn; its icy surface is shining brightly from yellow sunlight reflected by Saturn. Continuing to about the 2 o'clock position is a dark pixel just outside of the G ring; this dark pixel is Saturn's Death Star moon, Mimas. Mimas appears, upon close inspection, as a very thin crescent because Cassini is looking mostly at its non-illuminated face.

The moons Prometheus, Pandora, Janus and Epimetheus are also visible in the mosaic near Saturn's bright narrow F ring. Prometheus is visible as a faint black dot just inside the F ring and at the 9 o'clock position. On the opposite side of the rings, just outside the F ring, Pandora can be seen as a bright white dot. Pandora and Prometheus are shepherd moons and gravitational interactions between the ring and the moons keep the F ring narrowly confined. At the 11 o'clock position in between the F ring and the G ring, Janus appears as a faint black dot. Janus and Prometheus are dark for the same reason Mimas is mostly dark: we are looking at their non-illuminated sides in this mosaic. Midway between the F ring and the G ring, at about the 8 o'clock position, is a single bright pixel, Epimetheus. Looking more closely at Enceladus, Mimas and Tethys, one can see these moons casting shadows through the E ring like a telephone pole might cast a shadow through a fog.

Finally, in the lower right of the mosaic, in between the bright blue E ring and the faint but defined G ring, is the pale blue dot of our planet, Earth. Look closely and you can see the moon protruding from the Earth's lower right. For a higher resolution view of the Earth and moon taken during this campaign, CLICK HERE. Earth's twin, Venus, appears as a bright white dot in the upper left quadrant of the mosaic, also between the G and E rings. Mars also appears as a faint red dot embedded in the outer edge of the E ring, above and to the left of Venus.

This view looks toward the unlit side of the rings from about 17 degrees below the ring plane. Cassini was approximately 746,000 miles from Saturn when the images in this mosaic were taken.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
Image Addition Date: November 12, 2013

The Earth is EXTREMELY HARD TO SEE, but I guess that's the point. Check out the APOD link above to see a labeled view.

Select Size: 
Follow SpaceImages on Twitter
Want to receive email updates? Click here.
Questions or Comments? Click here to send e-mail.