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The Day the Earth Smiled

Space is about to become a giant photo booth.

This coming week, step outside and get your picture taken. It’s a “long shot” that’s for sure…but the camera is adjusted to infinity.

On July 19, the Cassini spacecraft that’s now in orbit around Saturn will be positioned to picture that planet and its entire ring system during an eclipse of the Sun. It has previously done so twice during its now 9 years in orbit around that world.

But this photo shoot will be very different.

This time, the images collected will capture, in natural color, a glimpse of our Earth alongside Saturn and its rings.

Better yet, this event is on a day that will be the first time the Earth’s inhabitants know in advance their picture is being taken from a billion miles away.

Interplanetary salute

“Hoot and holler, twist and shout, raise a glass, make a toast, dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free, or celebrate in silence. Whatever it takes,” said Carolyn Porco, CEO/President and Founder of Diamond Sky Productions, LLC of Boulder, Colorado. “But be sure to smile, knowing that others around the world are smiling too, in the sheer joy of simply being alive on a pale blue dot.”

Cameras on Cassini will be turning on July 19, Porco said, to take images of us and our planet alongside Saturn and its rings. She is also the Cassini Imaging Team Leader Director at the Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations (CICLOPS) in the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colorado.

“I have been encouraging everyone to take advantage of this special event and, at the appropriate time on July 19, gather outside with friends and family, acknowledge the interplanetary salute between robot and maker that this opportunity represents, and consider the uniqueness of our planet and the life on it,” Porco said.

Two contests

Furthermore, there are two contests that Diamond Sky Productions, LLC is running in association with the July 19 event.

“We will be choosing the best original contributions submitted by members of the pubic — an image in one case and a musical composition in another — to a Message to the Milky Way that will be beamed in about a year from the most powerful radio telescope on Earth, the Arecibo dish in Puerto Rico, in a long-distance call to our fellow galactic citizens,” Porco said.

The winning submissions will be beamed to the galaxy, Porco said, and that the first contest begins next Friday when the image representative of Planet Earth must be taken.

More information

The incredible Cassini spacecraft was hurled toward Saturn in 1997 and is a joint NASA, European Space Agency and Italian space agency mission.

For more information on the Friday, July 19 event, go to Diamond Sky Productions at:

To take part in the contests, check out the requirements and rules at:

Note: The image contest requires immediate action: image MUST be taken on July 19.

But you music composers out there will have months to compose your music.

Details regarding the times during which the Earth will be imaged from Cassini, which part of the Earth will be in sunlight and which part will be facing Cassini, and how to convert to your local time, can be found on the CICLOPS website at:

By Leonard David

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


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