In a stunning image of Saturn and its ring system taken by cameras on NASA's Cassini spacecraft, Earth appears as little more than a small blue dot in the distance.
Taken just four days ago on July 19, the image captured Saturn's rings and Earth and its moon—which are 898 million miles or 1.45 billion kms away in the image—in the same view. The image is one footprint in a mosaic of 33 footprints covering the entire Saturn ring system and the planet.. Each footprint contains images taken in different spectral images for a total of 323 images, according to NASA.
Wide-angle cameras, which are part of the Imaging Science Subsystem on the Cassini spacecraft captured the images. The cameras contained a CCD imager that consists of a 1024 x 1024 square array of 12 µm pixelsand a focal length of 200mm In addition, the camera performs data compression and its two filter wheels, each of which has nine filters, allows for the camera to capture images at specific wavelengths of light.
Cassini's image represents only the third time the Earth has been imaged from the outer solar system. The location from which the image was taken was approximately 753,000 miles (1.21 million kilometers) from Saturn. In about six weeks, NASA will release the mosaic of all the images.
The cameras and the Cassini orbiter were designed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (Pasadena, CA.; http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/) and the Cassini imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo. Cassini launched in 1997 and will continue to orbit Saturn until 2017, when it will self-destruct by descending into Saturn.
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