CICLOPS: Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for OPerationS
The Day the Earth Smiled: Sneak Preview

The Day the Earth Smiled: Sneak Preview
PIA 17171

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  In this rare image taken on July 19, 2013, Cassini's wide angle camera has captured Saturn's rings and our planet Earth and its Moon in the same frame. It is only 1 footprint in a mosaic of 33 footprints covering the entire Saturn ring system (including Saturn itself). At each footprint, images were taken in different spectral filters for a total of 323 images: some were taken for scientific purposes and some to produce a natural color mosaic. This is the only wide angle footprint that has the Earth/Moon system in it.

The dark side of Saturn, its bright limb, the main rings, the F ring, and the G and E rings are clearly seen; the limb of Saturn and the F ring are overexposed. The 'breaks' in the brightness of Saturn's limb are due to the shadows of the rings on the globe of Saturn, preventing sunlight from shining through the atmosphere in those regions. The E and G rings have been brightened for better visibility.

Earth, which is 898 million miles (1.44 billion kilometers) away in this image, appears as a blue dot at center right; the Moon can be seen as a fainter protrusion off its right side. [The two are clearly seen as separate objects in the accompanying narrow angle frame: PIA14949]

This is only the third time ever that Earth has been imaged from the outer solar system. The acquisition of this image, along with the accompanying narrow angle image of the Earth and the Moon and the full mosaic from which both are taken, marked the first time that inhabitants of Earth knew in advance that their planet was being imaged. That opportunity allowed people around the world to join together in social events to celebrate the occasion.

This view looks toward the unilluminated side of the rings from about 20 degrees below the ringplane.

Images taken using red, green and blue spectral filters were combined to create this natural color view. The images were obtained with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on July 19, 2013 at a distance of approximately 753,000 miles (1.212 million kilometers) from Saturn, and approximately 898.414 million miles (1.445858 billion kilometers)from Earth. Image scale on Saturn is 43 miles (69 kilometers) per pixel; image scale on the Earth is 53,820 miles (86,620 kilometers) per pixel. The illuminated areas of neither the Earth nor the Moon are resolved here. Consequently, the size of each `dot' is the same size that a point of light of comparable brightness would have in the wide angle camera.

The Cassini Solstice Mission is a joint United States and European endeavor. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team consists of scientists from the US, England, France, and Germany. The imaging operations center and team lead (Dr. C. Porco) are based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

For more information about the Cassini Solstice Mission visit, and

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
Released: July 22, 2013 (PIA 17171)
Image/Caption Information

Alliance Member Comments
ishmael1013 (Nov 10, 2013 at 12:13 PM):
Just wondering why this picture is titled "sneak preview" is another image yet to come?
dabunting (Jul 24, 2013 at 9:55 PM):
Always exuberant:

Great accomplishment! Love it!

thestarguide (Jul 23, 2013 at 8:33 AM):
Really awesome images, and I know there are more to come. Thanks for reminding us of how beautiful and precious our little planet is to everything we know, and have ever experienced. I'll be sharing the images at Star Tours this weekend while I share the sonnet I wrote for the smile!

Sonnet to the Earth

How the wonder does thou feel from afar
Down gravity's path round sol our near star
A cradle orbits carrying within
Earth's offering of fertile wonderland
But how the better breeze from water flows
The life above the ocean waves does know
To build and craft a sail uncoils, outward
Literally the breath of life it sends
Aids in its journey outward Saturn bound
To where a pause, a second look, taken
A new eye of life’s creation shares us
Like one voyager glancing back to say
As an echoed human voice bids Goodbye
Oh, fair earth be staid, be peaceful, be kind.

libbydaddy (Jul 23, 2013 at 8:09 AM):
You've got to really zoom in here on the Earth/Moon system to see Luna's bump but it is there and the picture resolution can handle the zooming very well. Nice job everyone! This has been some voyage in pictures you've taken us on, Cap'n.

And it's not done yet...
Merry (Jul 23, 2013 at 5:36 AM):
btw, thanks to the all the team and you Capt Carolyn. :)
Merry (Jul 23, 2013 at 5:31 AM):
Spectacular! Breathtaking!! Just one question, why is the "sky" blue rather than black? It shows how small we are in the scheme of things, and that "we are" is a miracle.