A beautiful image published by NASA, taken by the uncrewed Cassini-Huygens spacecraft, shows the Earth between the rings of Saturn. The image was 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 the rings of Saturn: the last Cassini view of our planet
This photo of Earth between the rings of Saturn is also the last Earth view of the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft: it was destroyed by diving into 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, Cassini continued 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).
Please note that the distance between the Moon and Earth is way greater than most people think. You could fit all the planets in the Solar System in that distance. It is 384,400 kilometers (238,855 miles), more than 30 times the Earth’s diameter (12,742 km/7917.5 miles)
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 was a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (the European Space Agency), and the Italian Space Agency.
More information about the Cassini mission:
- Casini mission overview on the NASA website
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