From Saturn, Earth looks like blue dot in distant space well beyond the huge planet's famous rings, but NASA is hoping that photo along with another shot from Mercury can boost interest in space.
NASA showed the photos from the Cassini spacecraft Monday, taken some 900 million miles away on Friday, according to Space.com
. The space agency also showed a similar photo of Earth from Mercury taken by its Messenger probe.
NASA, in a lighthearted way to get mere Earthlings involved in the space family portrait, encouraged people to go outside and wave into space between 5:27 and 5:42 Eastern time on Friday, the time Cassini was taking the shots, reported Space.com
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"We were being stared at by the skateboarders and the tourists, who were giving us a wide berth as we pointed up to the left of the CNN sign at Columbus Circle," said organizer Jason Shilling Kendall. "We chatted about the event of the picture-taking, and arrived before the images were taken, and stayed through the entire mission event, all 15-20 minutes of it."
Davide Castelvecchi, of Nature.com
, said a bird's eye view of Earth from Saturn is a rate event.
"Cassini, which has orbited Saturn since 2004, was able to spot Earth only once before, in 2006," Castelvecchi said on Nature.com's news blog. "That image, however, was taken with ultraviolet and infrared sensors. This is the first time Cassini has taken a snapshot of our pale blue dot in its true colors."
The photo was the latest bonus from the Cassini's mission to probe Saturn and its moons, which was supposed to end in 2008, according to NASA.gov
. Still healthy and going strong, Cassini's mission has been extended to 2017 to capture Saturn's summer solstice, according to NASA.
Cassini was launched in October, 1997 with the European Space Agency's Huygens probe. The Huygens probe landed on Saturn's largest moon of Titan successfully in 2005.
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Space.com's Tariq Malik said the photos put Earth in perspective in relationship to space.
"The images, by far, are amazing," Tariq Malik said in his blog Tuesday. "The photos clearly do what they were intended to do — show the world exactly where Earth stands in the universe. You, and everyone you know and have ever known, live on a tiny island of a planet in the vast sea of the universe."
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