On July 19, 2013, NASA's Cassini spacecraft slipped into Saturn's shadow and turned to image the planet, seven of its moons, its inner rings, and Earth.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

NASA releases dazzling Saturn and Earth photos taken by Cassini

Updated

All of Earth’s issues can fade into perspective when the planet is minimized to a barely-noticeable dot within the wider galaxy. NASA has released stunning new images from its Cassini spacecraft, giving a first-of-its kind glimpse of Earth in relation to Saturn and the outer solar system.

The full, natural color photograph shows a stretch of space 404,880 miles across; it includes Earth, Saturn and its inner rings, 7 of Saturn’s moons, Venus, and Mars.

“You don’t get many opportunities to do an image like this,” said Steve Mullins from the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo., which helped with the project. “It takes a special viewing geometry and you have to be aligned and everything has to work out. It takes a lot of planning ahead of time.”

It’s much harder to capture this kind of image because the sun is so close to Earth and obstructs the view. This time, the sun was obstructed by Saturn itself. The ring’s details are backlit by sunlight and the picture appears as the human eye would view it.

NASA says this is the third time a photo was taken of Earth from the outer solar system. It’s the first time people on Earth were aware that their photo was taken from so far away.

On July 19, when the photo was taken, NASA staged a “Wave at Saturn” campaign by asking people to send in their own pictures of themselves waving hello to the planet. About 1,600 submissions were chosen and compiled into an expansive collage based on the original photograph.

Cassini’s mission is scheduled to continue through 2017, but Mullins said they don’t currently have any other plans to do something like this again. “It’s just a rare spectacular image that took a lot of work,” he said. “I think we kind of nailed it on this one.”

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NASA releases dazzling Saturn and Earth photos taken by Cassini

Updated