NASA on Tuesday unveiled what scientists called, a "magnificent" photograph
taken from the outer solar system, showing Earth as a bright blue dot to the lower right of Saturn.
Earth has been photographed only twice previously from such a distance, scientists say.
This picture — taken from the Cassini spacecraft and enhanced by NASA's Cassini-Huygens technicians — was taken on July 19, when Saturn, Earth, and Cassini were perfectly aligned and Saturn was completely eclipsed by the sun so that Earth's image was not dulled, the Christian Science Monitor reported
Also for the first time, earthlings were given prior notice that they were being photographed as part of NASA's "Wave at Saturn" campaign. NASA created a mosaic
— using 1,600 images shared on the Internet — of people waving at the ringed planet.
The first photograph of Earth and the moon in a single frame was taken by Voyager 1 in 1977,
when it was 7.25 million miles from Earth, according to NASA.
Cassini — a project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency — was launched from Cape Canaveral on Oct. 15, 1997
. It arrived in the Saturn system in 2004 and has been exploring ever since.
NASA said it plans to continue the mission through 2017, with hopes of Cassini continuing to photograph Saturn, its rings, and moons.
The distance between Earth and Saturn
is constantly changing. Cassini traveled nearly 2.2 billion miles to reach the second-largest planet in the solar system, according to Space.com
"Beyond showing us the beauty of the ringed planet, data like these also improve our understanding of the history of the faint rings around Saturn and the way disks around planets form, clues to how our own solar system formed around the sun," NASA project scientist Linda Spilker said.
• Cassini Image Prompts Impressive Mosaic of Saturn
• Earth: Saturn, Mercury Vantage Points Show Our Planet in NASA Photos
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