NASA Shares Stunning Photo of Earth From the Rings of Saturn

by Matthew Memrick

NASA dipped into its dusty photobox for a stunning Saturn photo with its rings and Earth all lined up on Instagram.

Fortunately, no moon photobombed the photo.

The space agency photos a killer 2013 photo of the two planets from the Cassini spacecraft.

It’s so graphically stimulating. It could also be a concert band T-shirt. 

Over 430,000 liked the photo four hours after the agency posted it.

Cassini Photo Shows Earth A Long Ways Away

The spacecraft’s wide-angle, overexposed view of Saturn took a minute to figure out. I seriously thought somebody designed the graphic with the rings at the top of the picture.

And then, NASA said, “look at that pale blue dot below the rings.”

How often can you see a picture of the Earth that far away? The distance is roughly 898 million miles away. NASA went on to say it was only the third time ever that Earth found its way into a photo from the outer solar system.

NASA said the view “looks toward the unilluminated side of the rings from about 20 degrees below the ring plane.”

The spacecraft’s camera took the image using red, green, and blue spectral filters for a natural color view. 

Mission Behind Photo Took 13 Years

NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Italian Space Agency worked on the Cassini-Huygens mission. NASA called the project “one of the most ambitious planetary science efforts ever achieved.”

The overall mission lasted 19 years and 335 days. However, it was at Saturn for 13 years and 76 days studying the planet and its 82 moons. Of the 82 number, there are 53 confirmed moons. There are 29 unnamed ones left for identification. If you remember from elementary school, one moon is named Titan, and its size is larger than Mercury and Pluto

NASA reflected on the spacecraft and its accompanying Huygens probe, saying it “expanded our understanding of the kinds of worlds where life might exist, changing the course of planetary exploration.”

Sadly, the spacecraft flew into the planet on Sept. 17, 2017, as it ran out of fuel. However, scientists used research from that final Saturn trip to learn two things. First, one day around the planet equals about 10 hours, 33 minutes, and 38 seconds. Secondly, the heavenly body’s rings are pretty new. Researchers determined they were only 10 to 100 million years old. 

Mission Earns An Emmy Award?

That last trip called the mission’s Grand Finale at Saturn won an Emmy Award. I didn’t know NASA missions could win Emmy Awards.

Anyway, it won for Outstanding Original Interactive Program for its presentation in 2018.

NASA went all out in the presentation.

They created an interactive campaign with social media and mission website updates. The group’s dramatic short film told about the mission and previewed its final moment in space. There was even an art celebration of amateur space enthusiasts.