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


‘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!


Leandros S

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.


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


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.


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.


“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?”


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


Dang, my eyes were closed.


Why no star field?

ABM Barry

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


Actually, there are stars visible in the image posted at NASA’s JPL website (unless those are hot pixels).


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.

ABM Barry

Think: “Field of view” plus JPL don’t use Point & Shoot or rubbish iphones.


According to “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.”


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


Looks like a hot pixel … amazing.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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 1024×1024 CCD arrays.”

Molteni Bruno

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:


Cailean Gallimore

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


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

Roland Karlsson

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.


Incredible. Did the use Lightroom 🙂

Antony John

Nah, Photoshop because of it’s ‘Astronomical pricing’.


cool image!!


Great stuff.

It should give us some perspective.


cool images in the photo stream. Nice stuff.

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