Earth Matters

Smile! You’re on Space Cam

July 19th, 2013 by Mike Carlowicz

Comedian Stephen Wright has a one-liner that he used to deploy in his stand-up routines: “Every so often, I like to stick my head out of the window, look up, and smile for a satellite picture.”  This weekend, the entire planet is being encouraged to take that chance at least twice. The Cassini spacecraft — launched in 1997 and still sending back images from Saturn — and Messenger — in orbit around Mercury — will look back at Earth for long-distance snapshots of home. Here are some details from NASA news releases.

From the Jet Propulsion Laboratory: “The image taken from the Saturn system by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will occur between 2:27 and 2:42 Pacific Daylight Time (5:27 and 5:42 p.m. EDT, or 21:27 and 21:47 UTC) on Friday, July 19. Cassini will be nearly 900 million miles (nearly 1.5 billion kilometers) away from Earth…The Cassini Earth portrait is part of a more extensive mosaic — or multi-image picture — of the Saturn system as it is backlit by the Sun. The viewing geometry highlights the tiniest of ring particles and will allow scientists to see patterns within Saturn’s dusty rings. Processing of the Earth images is expected to take a few days, and processing of the full Saturn system mosaic will likely take several weeks.” 

Cassini also collected this image (below) of Earth and Saturn in 2006. For details on how to find Saturn in the sky and participate in this weekend’s event, visit:



From the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory: “NASA’s Mercury-orbiting MESSENGER spacecraft will capture images of Earth on July 19 and 20. The images will be taken at 7:49 a.m., 8:38 a.m. and 9:41 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time on both days. Nearly half of the Earth, including all the Americas, Africa, and Europe, will be illuminated and facing MESSENGER, according to Hari Nair, the  planetary scientist who designed and is implementing the campaign. The images on the second day will also include pictures of the Moon, where all six of the Apollo landing sites will be illuminated, 44 years to the day after Apollo 11 landed on the Moon’s rocky surface. These images of Earth and the Moon are coincidental, taken as part of a search for natural satellites around Mercury.” 

For more of the MESSENGER story, visit:

We hope to post both views on Earth Observatory in the coming weeks.

One Response to “Smile! You’re on Space Cam”

  1. Tyanna Johnson says:

    this picture is cool