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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Images of Earth from Planetary Spacecraft

Lunar Orbiter sent back the first photo of Earth over the Moon, but it was the Apollo program that produced the first widely publicized views of Earth as a colorful marble floating in black space, images that revolutionized public perception of our fragile planet. At the same time, the Soviets were capturing similarly dramatic images from their Zond flyby craft. Later, Clementine reprised these views. As spacecraft began to launch on journeys to more distant planets, never to return, their mission controllers often commanded them to take departing views of Earth and the Moon. Mariner 10 and Voyager 1 both took such snapshots, as did Mars Odyssey and Venus Express. Other spacecraft traveling to eventual orbit around other planets required one or more gravity-assist flybys of Earth; a year or more after their launches, Galileo, Hayabusa, Rosetta, and MESSENGER returned to the neighborhood, shooting photos and even movies as they flew by. Some planetary travelers -- like Voyager 1, Mars Global Surveyor, Cassini, Deep Impact, and even the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit -- were even able to turn toward Earth and capture distant glimpses of their home planets from their eventual destinations. Now, with the dawning of an International Lunar Decade and multiple missions returning to the Moon, new views are coming from spacecraft like Kaguya.

Lunar Orbiter

First image of Earthrise over the Moon
Lunar Orbiter 1: First image of Earthrise over the Moon (1966)
Lunar Orbiter 1 was the first spacecraft to capture an image of Earth rising over the lunar limb. A higher-resolution version of this image can be downloaded from the Lunar and Planetary Institute's Lunar Orbiter Photo Gallery. Credit: NASA / LPI

Apollo Program

Earthrise over the lunar horizon
Apollo 8: Earthrise over the lunar horizon (December 24, 1968)
Earth rose over the lunar horizon as Apollo 8 completed the first manned trip behind the far side of the Moon. The mission also returned the first live television coverage of the lunar surface. Credit: NASA
View of Earth rising over Moon's horizon taken from Apollo 11 spacecraft
Apollo 11: Earthrise over the lunar horizon (July 16, 1969)
The lunar terrain as seen from Apollo 11 is in the area of Smuth's Sea on the nearside. Coordinates of the center of the terrain are 85 degrees east longitude and 3 degrees north latitude. Credit: NASA Johnson Space Center (NASA-JSC)
Iconic view of Earth from Apollo 17
Apollo 17: Iconic view of Earth (December 7, 1972)
One of the most famous images of the twentieth century, this view of the fully lit globe of Earth was taken from Apollo 17 shortly after its launch. The full view was enabled by the fortuitous alignment of Earth, spacecraft, and the Sun. Credit: NASA

Zond Program

Earthset from Zond 7
Earthset from Zond 7
Zond 7 flew past the Moon, taking this sequence of images of Earth setting behind the lunar limb, on August 9, 1969. The sequence actually consists of only three images; the second one was simulated from data in the others to even out the Earthset sequence. Credit: Russian Academy of Sciences / Ted Stryk

Mariner 10

Earth and the Moon from Mariner 10
Mariner 10: Earth and Moon (November 3, 1973)
Within 12 hours of its launch, Mariner 10 turned on its cameras to capture several hundred high-resolution digital color pictures of the Earth-Moon system. In this view, Earth and Moon were imaged by Mariner 10 from 2.6 million kilometers (1.6 million miles). Two images were combined to illustrate the relative sizes of the two bodies. Credit: NASA / JPL

Voyager 1

Crescent Earth and Moon
Voyager 1: Crescent Earth and Moon (September 18, 1977)
This picture of a crescent-shaped Earth and Moon -- the first of its kind ever taken by a spacecraft -- was recorded by Voyager 1 when it was 11.66 million kilometers (7.25 million miles) from Earth. Credit: NASA / JPL
The Pale Blue Dot of Earth
Voyager 1: Pale Blue Dot (February 14, 1990)
This image of Earth is one of 60 frames taken by the Voyager 1 spacecraft from a distance of more than 6 billion kilometers (4 billion miles) and about 32 degrees above the ecliptic plane. In the image Earth is a mere point of light, a crescent only 0.12 pixel in size. Our planet was caught in the center of one of the scattered light rays resulting from taking the image so close to the Sun. Credit: NASA / JPL
The Pale Blue Dot of Earth - Detail
Voyager 1: Pale Blue Dot - Detail
Credit: NASA / JPL


Antarctica Mosaic
Galileo: Antarctica Mosaic (December 8, 1990)
This color picture of the limb of the Earth, looking north past Antarctica, is a mosaic of 11 images taken during a ten-minute period near 5:45 p.m. PST Dec. 8, 1990, by Galileo's imaging system. Red, green and violet filters were used. The picture spans about 1,600 miles across the south polar latitudes of our planet. The morning day/night terminator is toward the right. The South Pole is out of sight below the picture; the visible areas of Antarctica are those lying generally south of South America. The violet-blue envelope of Earth's atmosphere is prominent along the limb to the left. At lower left, the dark blue Amundsen Sea lies to the left of the Walgreen and Bakutis Coasts. Beyond it, Peter Island reacts with the winds to produce a striking pattern of atmospheric waves. Credit: JPL / NASA
Global Images of Earth
Galileo: Global Images of Earth (December 11, 1990)
These images were taken during Galileo's first Earth flyby. In each frame, the continent of Antarctica is visible at the bottom of the globe. South America may be seen in the first frame (top left), the great Pacific Ocean in the second (bottom left), India at the top and Australia to the right in the third (top right), and Africa in the fourth (bottom right). The images were taken at six-hour intervals on December 11, 1990, at a range of between 2 and 2.7 million kilometers (1.2 to 1.7 million miles). Galileo's closest approach (960 kilometers, or 597 miles, above the Earth's surface) to the Earth was on December 8, 1990, 3 days before these pictures were taken. Each of these images is a color composite, made up using images taken through red, green, and violet filters. Credit: JPL / NASA
Earth rotates under Galileo
Galileo: Earth flyby animation (December 11-12, 1990)
As Galileo receded from its first flyby of Earth on December 11 and 12, it took images of Earth in six different filters almost every minute over a 25-hour period. The animation at leftincludes images taken once an hour, representing about a tenth of the full number of frames. Click here for a version of this movie at Galileo's full resolution with images taken every half-hour (Quicktime format, 1.1 MB). Credit: NASA / JPL / Doug Ellison
Earth - Moon Conjunction
Galileo view of an Earth-Moon conjunction
Galileo: Earth - Moon Conjunction (December 16 and 17, 1992)
Eight days after its second gravity-assist flyby of Earth, the Galileo spacecraft looked back from a distance of about 6.2 million kilometers (3.9 million miles) to capture this remarkable view of the Moon in orbit about Earth. The composite photograph was constructed from images taken through visible (violet, red) and near-infrared (1.0-micron) filters. The Moon is in the foreground; its orbital path is from left to right. Brightly colored Earth contrasts strongly with the Moon, which reacts only about one-third as much sunlight as our world. To improve the visibility of both bodies, contrast and color have been computer enhanced. At the bottom of Earth's disk, Antarctica is visible through clouds. The Moon's far side can also be seen. The shadowy indentation in the Moon's dawn terminator -- the boundary between its dark and lit sides -- is the South Pole-Aitken Basin, one of the largest and oldest lunar impact features. Credit: JPL / NASA

The animation includes 56 frames, each separated by 15 minutes, spanning 14 hours. Click here for a full-resolution version in Quicktime format (151 kb). Credit: JPL / NASA / Doug Ellison


Earth from Clementine
Clementine: Earth crescent (February 11, 1994)
Clementine snapped this photo from lunar orbit on February 11, 1994. India is visible toward the top of the image, with south toward the left. Credit: Naval Research Laboratory
Earth and the Moon from Clementine
Clementine: Earth over the Moon (March 13, 1994)
Clementine peered over the limb of the Moon on March 13, 1994 to view a distant, nearly full-disk Earth. The large crater at the bottom of the view is Plaskett at 82°N, 180°W. In the original image, Earth was much farther above the Moon; the image has been modified to make it better fit on a computer screen. Credit: Naval Research Laboratory

2001 Mars Odyssey

Earth and the Moon as seen from Mars Odyssey THEMIS
Earth as seen from Mars Odyssey THEMIS (detail)
Mars Odyssey: Earth and Moon in thermal infrared (April 19, 2001)
As 2001 Mars Odyssey receded from Earth, it captured a departing view of its home planet and the Moon. This view is in thermal infrared wavelengths, so brightness and darkness represents more or less heat being emitted from the globes. The dark spot on Earth is the cold south pole; the bright spot above it is the warm land surface of Australia. Mars Odyssey was more than 3.5 million kilometers (2.2 million miles) from Earth and the Moon when it took this photo, and achieved a resolution of about 900 kilometers. From this distance and perspective the camera was able to acquire an image that directly shows the true distance from Earth to the Moon. Earth's diameter is about 12,750 kilometers (7,922 miles), and the distance from Earth to the Moon is about 385,000 kilometers (239,000 miles), corresponding to 30 Earth diameters. Credit: NASA / JPL / U. Arizona

Mars Global Surveyor

Earth and Moon from Mars
Mars Global Surveyor: Earth and Moon from Mars (May 8, 2003)
This is the first image of Earth ever taken from another planet that actually shows our home as a planetary disk. Because Earth and the Moon are closer to the Sun than Mars, they exhibit phases, just as the Moon, Venus, and Mercury do when viewed from Earth. As seen from Mars by Mars Global Surveyor on May 8, 2003 at 13:00 GMT (6:00 AM PDT), Earth and the Moon appeared in the evening sky. The Earth/Moon image has been specially processed to allow both Earth (with an apparent magnitude of -2.5) and the much darker Moon (with an apparent magnitude of +0.9) to be visible together. The bright area at the top of the image of Earth is cloud cover over central and eastern North America. Below that, a darker area includes Central America and the Gulf of Mexico. The bright feature near the center-right of the crescent Earth consists of clouds over northern South America. The image also shows the Earth-facing hemisphere of the Moon, since the Moon was on the far side of Earth as viewed from Mars. The slightly lighter tone of the lower portion of the image of the Moon results from the large and conspicuous ray system associated with the crater Tycho. Credit: NASA / JPL / Malin Space Science Systems

Mars Exploration Rover Spirit

Earth as Seen from Mars' Surface
Spirit: Earth as Seen from Mars' Surface, March 7, 2004
This is the first image ever taken of Earth from the surface of a planet beyond the Moon. It was taken by the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit one hour before sunrise on the 63rd martian day, or sol, of its mission. The image is a mosaic of images taken by the rover's navigation camera showing a broad view of the sky, and an image taken by the rover's panoramic camera of Earth. The contrast in the panoramic camera image was increased two times to make Earth easier to see. The inset shows a combination of four panoramic camera images zoomed in on Earth. The arrow points to Earth. Earth was too faint to be detected in images taken with the panoramic camera's color filters. Credit: NASA / JPL / Cornell / Texas A&M


Earth from Hayabusa
Hayabusa: Earth flyby (May 18, 2004)
Japan's Hayabusa snapped this image of Earth during its flyby on May 18, 2004 at 15:00 UTC. Four of Earth's continents are clearly visible -- North America at left, South America at the bottom, Africa on the right, and eastern Europe above it. Credit: ISAS / JAXA / Emily Lakdawalla


Rosetta's view of Earth
Rosetta: Receding Earth (March 7, 2005)
Rosetta snapped this view of Earth through its Navigation Camera as it was flying away from the Earth having completed the closest-ever fly-by performed by an ESA mission on the previous day. At the bottom, Antarctica can be seen on the right, below South America. Credit: ESA
Crescent Earth
Tosetta: Crescent Earth (November 13, 2007)
This unusual photo of a crescent Earth was taken by the OSIRIS wide-angle camera on Rosetta about two hours before closest approach on its second Earth flyby. Antarctica lies at the bottom of the crescent. Credit: ESA © 2005 MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS / UPD / LAM / IAA / RSSD / INTA / UPM / DASP / IDA


Earth in true and false color as seen by MESSENGER
MESSENGER: Earth in true and false color (August 2, 2005)
This pair of images represents the same viewpoint on Earth through two different sets of filters on the MESSENGER spacecraft. On top, three filters in red, green, and blue wavelengths were combined to make an image that approximates what the human eye would see. The green mass at the center is the Amazon jungle of South America. The deserts of West Africa are just visible on the edge of the Earth's disk below and to the right of South America. The bottom image is "pushed" into the near infrared; instead of red, green, and blue, it is composed of images taken through near-infrared, red, and green filters. Chlorophyll, the green pigment in plant leaves, is very strongly reflective at near infrared wavelengths, much more so than it is in red or green wavelengths, so the vegetated parts of Earth burst into bright red color. The spacecraft was 102,918 kilometers (63,950 miles) away from Earth when the images were taken. At full resolution, they represent only 1/10 the level of detail that MDIS will achieve in its global, multispectral mapping of Mercury. Credit: NASA / JHUAPL
MESSENGER's receding view of Earth (movie)
MESSENGER: Receding movie of Earth (August 2, 2005)
As MESSENGER retreated from its gravity-assist flyby of Earth, it captured a full day's worth of images of Earth's receding crescent, which were assembled into a movie. This animation contains only 17 of the 358 frames captured by MESSENGER; you can download the full (5-Megabyte) animation at the MESSENGER website. Credit: NASA / JHUAPL

Venus Express

Venus Express views Earth and the Moon
Venus Express: Earth and Moon (November 2005)
Shortly after launch, Venus Express turned to Earth to perform preliminary commissioning of its instruments. These images were captured by VIRTIS, Venus Express' high resolution imaging system. This sequence of four images of Earth and the Moon was designed to obtain the best signal possible from the Moon, so Earth is overexposed. The brightest image (upper right) is in a visible wavelength; the image below it is in ultraviolet; and the two left pairs are in infrared wavelengths. Credit: ESA / MPS


Cassini Captures a View of 'Home'
Pale Blue Orb
Cassini: Earth and Moon as a distant dot (September 15, 2006)
Not since Voyager 1 saw our home as a pale blue dot from beyond the orbit of Neptune has Earth been imaged in color from the outer solar system. Now, Cassini casts powerful eyes on our home planet, and captures the pale blue orb of our Earth -- and a faint suggestion of our Moon -- among the glories of the Saturn system. Earth is captured here in a natural color portrait made possible by the passing of Saturn directly in front of the Sun from Cassini's point of view. At the distance of Saturn's orbit, Earth is too narrowly separated from the Sun for the spacecraft to safely point its cameras and other instruments toward its birthplace without protection from the Sun's glare. The Earth-Moon system is visible as a bright blue point on the right side of the image above center. Here, Cassini is looking down on the Atlantic Ocean and the western coast of north Africa. A magnified view of the image taken through the clear filter (monochrome) shows the Moon as a dim protrusion to the upper left of Earth. Credit: NASA / JPL / Space Science Institute

Kaguya (SELENE)

Earth from Kaguya
Earth from Kaguya
Kaguya took this photo of Earth using its HDTV camera from a distance of 110,000 kilometers (68,000 miles). It is the farthest that any HDTV camera has ever traveled from Earth. This is a still image, but it was taken as part of a test of the camera's ability to shoot video. Credit: JAXA / NHK
Earthrise over the Moon
Earthset over the Moon
Kaguya Earthset sequence
Earthset over the lunar south pole
Earthrise and Earthset from Kaguya
Kaguya took these photos of Earthrise and Earthset using its wide-angle (upper left) and telephoto (all other images) HDTV camera from lunar orbit on November 7, 2007. The spacecraft's polar orbit takes it from south to north behind the lunar farside, giving it an Earthrise every orbit as it rises above the north pole and an Earthset half an orbit later as it sinks behind the south pole. When these images were taken Kaguya's wide-angle HD camera was pointed forward along the orbit to capture the Earthrise; the telephoto camera faced backwards, to see Earthset. Credit: JAXA / NHK / animation by Emily Lakdawalla
Earthset from Kaguya
Earthset from Kaguya
Kaguya captured this movie of a full Earth setting behind the lunar limb with its high-definition camera on April 5, 2008. A Flash version of the movie may be viewed here. Credit: JAXA / NHK
Crescent Earthrise
Crescent Earthrise
Kaguya shot this lovely view of a crescent Earth, its thin atmosphere backlit by the Sun, on April 19, 2008. Credit: JAXA / NXK

Deep Impact

Deep Impact view of Earth and the Moon
Deep Impact view of Earth and the Moon
Deep Impact took this photo of Earth and the Moon together as a part of its EPOXI extended mission, a search for extrasolar planets. The color image was snapped from nearly 50 milion kilometers (30 million miles) away on May 29, 2008 at 06:40 UTC, at a time when the Moon was transiting Earth as seen from Deep Impact. Credit: NASA / JPL / UMD / GSFC

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