Earth between Saturn'a Rings NASA image

Earth Between the Rings of Saturn

A beautiful image published by NASA, taken by the unmanned Cassini-Huygens spacecraft, shows the Earth between the rings of Saturn. The image is taken on April 12, 2017.

“Consider again that dot [Earth]. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar,’ every ‘supreme leader,’ every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.” Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

Earth between Saturn'a Rings NASA image
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft captured this view of planet Earth as a point of light between the icy rings of Saturn on April 12, 2017. Image: NASA

This photo is also the last Earth view of Cassini-Huygens spacecraft: it will be destroyed by diving into the Saturn’s atmosphere on September 15, 2017. This method of disposal was planned to avoid potential biological contamination of Saturn’s moons, since Titan, Enceladus, and other icy moons of Saturn may harbor oceans and alien life. Until that date, it will continue orbiting Saturn at a distance of between 8.2 and 10.2 astronomical units from the Earth (an astronomical unit – or AU is the distance between Earth and Sun, it is now defined as exactly 149,597,870,700 meters (roughly 150 million kilometers, or 93 million miles).

Earth and Moon between Saturn'a Rings NASA image
Earth’s moon is also visible to the left of our planet in a cropped, zoomed-in version of the image. Cassini spacecraft captured the view on April 12, 2017 at 10:41 p.m. PDT (1:41 a.m. EDT). Cassini was 870 million miles (1.4 billion kilometers) away from Earth when the image was taken. Although far too small to be visible in the image, the part of Earth facing toward Cassini at the time was the southern Atlantic Ocean.

You can also watch the 360° interactive video and dive between Saturn and its rings with NASA’s Cassini spacecraft in the final chapter of its mission. In this 360-degree video, you are traveling along with the spacecraft at tens of thousands of miles per hour as it makes one of 22 planned dives through this unexplored gap. The first dive of Cassini’s Grand Finale takes place on April 26, 2017, with additional dives about once a week.

The Cassini mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (the European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. More information about the Cassini mission:
http://www.nasa.gov/cassini
http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov