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From a Distance!

Credit: NASA

Credit: NASA

Two spacecraft have managed to snag images of our Earth and the Moon, but from far, far away.

NASA’s MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) orbiter circling Mercury took the image July 19 as part of a campaign to search for natural satellites of Mercury.

MESSENGER was at a distance of 98 million kilometers (61 million miles) from Earth in its photo shoot.

One day later in the search for satellites of Mercury, MESSENGER again took similar images of the Earth and Moon. The date of those images, July 20, was the 44th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the Moon. All six Apollo landing sites are illuminated in the MESSENGER images, although they cannot be resolved. Their locations are marked on a simulated image.

The MESSENGER image of July 19 was taken on the same day that images with Earth in the scene were acquired by the Cassini spacecraft, as part of a mosaic of the backlit Saturn system.

In a Cassini image, Earth, is 898 million miles away, appearing as a blue dot at center right; the Moon can be seen as a fainter protrusion off its right side.

Images from Cassini “show a view of the Earth, our Moon, and us, in a way we only rarely get to see … from the most distant robotic outpost we have ever established around another planet,” said Carolyn Porco, Cassini Imaging Team leader and Director of the Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations (CICLOPS) in Boulder, Colorado.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency.

Earlier today, NASA released images from both spacecraft.

By Leonard David


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