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Cassini spacecraft takes spectacular pictures of Saturn (oh, and Earth)

By dpreview staff on Jul 23, 2013 at 20:36 GMT

'Of all the millions of images taken of the worlds in our solar system since the beginning of the space age, those that reach deeper into the human heart than any other, are those of our own home, as it might be seen in the skies of other worlds: small, alone in the blackness of never-ending space and awash in the blue of its blue, blue oceans.'

Those are the words of Carolyn Porco, the Cassini Imaging Team Leader.

Last Friday, while orbiting Saturn, the Cassini spacecraft turned its camera lens on earth from almost a billion miles away. NASA has released the images, which show Saturn and its rings, and also the Earth in the (very far) distance. The original 'raw' images taken by the spacecraft are grayscale, but astronomy enthusiast Valerie Klavans has converted some of them and added color. 

That tiny dot in the distance is our home planet of Earth. [Photo credit: NASA/JPL. Retouched versions by Valerie Klavans]
Here, Earth can be found to the upper-left of Saturn's rings.[Photo credit: NASA/JPL. Retouched versions by Valerie Klavans]
A very distant view of Earth and the Moon. [Photo credit: NASA/JPL. Retouched versions by Valerie Klavans]

Friday was the first time in nine years that Cassini has photographed Earth from its orbit around Saturn. In preparation for the interplanetary self-portrait, NASA promoted 'The Day That the Earth Smiled' on social media with the instruction: 'at the appointed time, straighten up, brush your hair, go outside, gather with friends and family, think a thought or two about the starkness of our whereabouts, the beauty of our home planet, the marvel of our existence and the magnificence of our accomplishments. And then ... look up and smile'.

We hope you did!

Via: Petapixel, Source: Val Klavans

Comments

Total comments: 52
the Mtn Man
By the Mtn Man (8 months ago)

The only thing more awe inspiring than our universe is God who created it.

1 upvote
huyzer
By huyzer (8 months ago)

If anyone has not seen it yet, see "Carl Sagan - Pale Blue Dot" on youtube. It is inspiring (link below):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wupToqz1e2g

Comment edited 40 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
GCamp
By GCamp (9 months ago)

I keep listen to the brains say this or that planet could have life because conditions are right....well how about considering that life on another planet may not have/need any of our needs. Just a whole new set of building blocks.

1 upvote
Jake64
By Jake64 (9 months ago)

NASA edits their photos and the last time I checked, so does everyone else on dpreview. I don't understand what the big deal is if they airbrushed a few stars or blemishes or added vibrance to the photo. The purpose of this photo is to point on how small and insignificant earth is when compared to the universe we live in. Pick up a grain of sand and look at it and know that the grain of sand you are holding has more significance on this planet than our planet has in the universe.

Comment edited 37 seconds after posting
6 upvotes
HeyItsJoel
By HeyItsJoel (9 months ago)

Conspiracy Theorists are all over this! They're already debunking it as a fake because there are no stars visible in the picture just like the Apollo moon landing. This photo must be taken in a studio somewhere in NASA.

0 upvotes
jkirk@oz
By jkirk@oz (9 months ago)

It's full of stars

3 upvotes
Joseph S Wisniewski
By Joseph S Wisniewski (9 months ago)

Technically, she didn't "add color". The Cassini photos have much more color than the average photographer is used to dealing with. She actually took a lot of the color away.

There are multiple images per view, taken by a monochrome sensor with a filter wheel that includes multiple IR wavelengths, visible red (a couple of differ wavelengths) green, blue, violet, and UV. Pick three (red, green, and blue, if you want true colors, or any three if you want false colors) drop them into the channel mixer, and viola.

1 upvote
starwolfy
By starwolfy (9 months ago)

Ok...but the most important question remains unanswered: How many Isos ?

0 upvotes
Leandros S
By Leandros S (9 months ago)

Under what terms are you using these images? You're a commercial site, and commercial use is not permitted by the copyright holder (Val Klavans for the retouched versions). Your versions are on the rather large side to be claiming fair use.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
Revenant
By Revenant (9 months ago)

This is a news item, and they don't charge anything for it. Does that really count as commercial use?

2 upvotes
Alec
By Alec (9 months ago)

Driving traffic (here I am!) to a site with ads on it is certainly commercial use. It would appear, this Amazon property is committing a violation.

0 upvotes
joejack951
By joejack951 (9 months ago)

Alec, did DPReview somehow plant a link on Valerie's Flickr or did you come here on your own accord and happen to see these pictures?

If DPR is driving traffic anywhere with these images it is to Valerie's site. They stand to gain nothing by showing the images here and giving appropriate photo credit.

4 upvotes
Leandros S
By Leandros S (9 months ago)

There's a lot you don't seem to understand, joejack951. Number of clicks = traffic. DPR is harvesting additional clicks and hence advertising revenue by including this news item, and while recourse to Fair Use law is possible, this requires that the representation be of a low resolution, which I've argued is not the case here. The fact that they are generating traffic for a (note: non-commercial) flickr account has nothing to do with it. The law is not quid pro quo in this case.

0 upvotes
Joseph S Wisniewski
By Joseph S Wisniewski (9 months ago)

According to the comments on Valerie's Flickr stream, she's been aware that the pictures are here on dpReview for 36 hours. So, unless you're her legal representative (in which case, it's disingenous for you not to admit so) you're fighting a battle for another adult who did not ask for your help.

Oh, and as far as your notion that processing a raw file qualifies as creating a "derivative work", you have a lot to learn about IP law.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
joejack951
By joejack951 (9 months ago)

I just checked one of the images. It's a .25 MP image (~500 x 500 pixels) with a size of 20 kb (suggesting heavy compression). Where do you consider the threshold for low resolution to be?

0 upvotes
Joseph S Wisniewski
By Joseph S Wisniewski (9 months ago)

Hadn't thought of that. Leandros referred to the images as "too large to qualify as fair use", but that's just insane. 500 pixels is less than 1/3 the width of my laptop screen. It's not big enough to use in an article (which would be fair use) or project for a lecture (also fair use). Printed at an industry standard 300dpi, it's not even 2 inches square, so it's not even a threat to the refrigerator magnet market, let alone the fine art market.

I think Leandros may have some agenda that goes way beyond a legitimate complaint.

0 upvotes
CFynn
By CFynn (9 months ago)

These photographs were taken by NASA and the different layers assembled by a NASA employee.

In general, under section 105 of the Copyright Act, works of the United States government are not entitled to domestic copyright protection under U.S. law.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_status_of_work_by_the_U.S._government

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/imagepolicy/

1 upvote
Olymore
By Olymore (9 months ago)

And when you consider that there are more stars than grains of sand on every beach on Earth and the distances between the stars are millions of times greater than the distance between Earth and Saturn, and the distances between galaxies are many times greater still, you start to realise that the Universe is mainly empty space at the macro level.

3 upvotes
elgol
By elgol (9 months ago)

space is not empty ...

1 upvote
Zdman
By Zdman (9 months ago)

Yeah don't forget dark matter. That stuff that has to exist because otherwise the equations don't work properly (not like the equations could be off or anything, never that).

1 upvote
ShoomKloom
By ShoomKloom (9 months ago)

Of course the equations are off, but they are just a tool.
If you are skeptic of them, by all means offer new ones that fit the data better.
Till then, don't disrespect the existing ones that BTW are the product of years of work by brilliant minds.

0 upvotes
hassannabeel
By hassannabeel (9 months ago)

"Who has created the seven heavens one above another; you can see no fault in the creation of the Most Gracious. Then look again: "Can you see any rifts?"

0 upvotes
TheDreamingWatchman
By TheDreamingWatchman (9 months ago)

Yeah, actually I can see several rifts in the rings of Saturn.

1 upvote
SirSeth
By SirSeth (9 months ago)

Dang, my eyes were closed.

1 upvote
DonM999
By DonM999 (9 months ago)

Why no star field?

Comment edited 30 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
ABM Barry
By ABM Barry (9 months ago)

Astronomical purpose built imaging devices can filter out any wavelength not required to focus on the specific subject that is required.

0 upvotes
westronomy
By westronomy (9 months ago)

Actually, there are stars visible in the image posted at NASA's JPL website http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/spaceimages/details.php?id=PIA17171 (unless those are hot pixels).

0 upvotes
bossa
By bossa (5 months ago)

Take a picture of the moon so that you can see it's features and get back to us after you counted the visible stars on both hands?

0 upvotes
Peiasdf
By Peiasdf (9 months ago)

I am keep thinking that at 9.5 AU from the sun, if you take a picture of Earth you would also capture the sun in the frame.

0 upvotes
ABM Barry
By ABM Barry (9 months ago)

Think: "Field of view" plus JPL don't use Point & Shoot or rubbish iphones.

1 upvote
westronomy
By westronomy (9 months ago)

According to SpaceWeather.com: "Normally, distant spacecraft cannot photograph Earth because Earth is so close to the sun. Glare prevents imaging. Cassini took advantage of a rare eclipse of the sun by Saturn itself. With the sun blocked by the body of the ringed planet, Earth became visible to Cassini's cameras."

10 upvotes
Impulses
By Impulses (9 months ago)

That's actually kind of remarkable westronomy... When photographic composition meets some serious planetary math!

2 upvotes
imbimmer
By imbimmer (9 months ago)

Looks like a hot pixel ... amazing.

2 upvotes
Rodger1943
By Rodger1943 (9 months ago)

Beautiful images. Shows us where we sit in the vast reaches of space. Just a speck.

0 upvotes
Funduro
By Funduro (9 months ago)

Blue dot looks like a Nikon D600 oil/dust issue.

7 upvotes
Spectro
By Spectro (9 months ago)

at least it didn't have the discontinued canon t4i and eos m af issues, wouldnt get a shot off in time.

2 upvotes
wfektar
By wfektar (9 months ago)

No it's not, it's a Hasselblad Saturn, easily distinguished from the D600 by the titanium and silicon trim. Get it right already.

3 upvotes
Xenterfold
By Xenterfold (9 months ago)

t4i and eos m both would still have captured the shot albeit a second late - outer space shots can be more forgiving - resulting in variations of the same subject/s.

d600 however will also still have the oil/dust issue - a lot less favorable for outer space imaging.

1 upvote
Scott Birch
By Scott Birch (9 months ago)

It's a bit contrasty. They should have looked at the jpeg settings on the older MFT model they're obviously using.

0 upvotes
steelhead3
By steelhead3 (9 months ago)

Nasa insists that green color is air glow..the same with Saturn (is there atmosphere "air")?

0 upvotes
Peiasdf
By Peiasdf (9 months ago)

It is a gas giant with atmosphere, liquid ocean and solid core like Earth.

Comment edited 11 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Spectro
By Spectro (9 months ago)

you must be thinking of Neptune or Uranus.

Saturn: ""Its atmosphere has traces of ammonia, phosphine, water vapor, and hydrocarbons giving it a yellowish-brown color."" -cool cosmos

0 upvotes
Frank_BR
By Frank_BR (9 months ago)

I remember the Cassini mission raised a lot of concerns about environmental contamination in the case of a launch failure. Regarding the Cassini cameras, it is interesting to note that the 1Mpixel CCD sensors would be considered crappy by most of DPR readers:

"The Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS) consists of a wide angle camera, with angular resolution of 60 microradians per pixel, and a narrow angle camera, with angular resolution of 6.0 microradians per pixel. The sensors are 1024x1024 CCD arrays."

http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/spacecraft/cassiniorbiterinstruments/instrumentscassiniiss/instcassiniissdetails/

4 upvotes
Molteni Bruno
By Molteni Bruno (9 months ago)

In 1990 the astronomer Carl Sagan asked the Voyager 1 spacecraft to turn toward home one last time and take a picture of our world from a distance of six billion kilometers.

The result was an image of a pale blue dot suspended in a reflection of the light of the sun.

Carl Sagan related his thoughts on a deeper meaning of the photograph.

We can remember his reflections now seeing these Cassini's photos:

http://tinyurl.com/mcb356l

Bruno

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
12 upvotes
Cailean Gallimore
By Cailean Gallimore (9 months ago)

The first time I saw Saturn through a large telescope I was filled with awe.

5 upvotes
AbrasiveReducer
By AbrasiveReducer (9 months ago)

So vast. What I thought was the moon turned out to be a speck of dirt on my monitor.

0 upvotes
Roland Karlsson
By Roland Karlsson (9 months ago)

That's of course how it is. If the big Saturn is a bright spot from Earth, then small Earth is just a tiny dot from Saturn. For some strange reason its hard you imagine Earth only being a small dot as all other photographs of earth shows a large ball with features. But, a small dot it is. Nice to get perspective.

1 upvote
BRPWS
By BRPWS (9 months ago)

Incredible. Did the use Lightroom :)

0 upvotes
Antony John
By Antony John (9 months ago)

Nah, Photoshop because of it's 'Astronomical pricing'.

6 upvotes
DanCee
By DanCee (9 months ago)

cool image!!

0 upvotes
DrugaRunda
By DrugaRunda (9 months ago)

Great stuff.

It should give us some perspective.

2 upvotes
Combatmedic870
By Combatmedic870 (9 months ago)

cool images in the photo stream. Nice stuff.

1 upvote
Total comments: 52