July 18, 2013 2:28 pm
On Friday afternoon at around 5:30 on the east coast, 2:30 on the west, look up to the sky and smile. Nine hundred million miles away, a camera is taking your photo. Our Earth and everything on it is playing the backdrop to a portrait of Saturn taken by a camera aboard NASA’s Cassini orbiter. That satellite has been cruising around Saturn since 2004.
The photo will see Saturn obscure the Sun, giving a good view of the gas giant’s rings. Blocking out the Sun also means that the relatively faint light of the Earth will be able to shine through. NASA:
“While Earth will be only about a pixel in size from Cassini’s vantage point 898 million [1.44 billion kilometers] away, the team is looking forward to giving the world a chance to see what their home looks like from Saturn,” said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “We hope you’ll join us in waving at Saturn from Earth, so we can commemorate this special opportunity.”
Cassini will start obtaining the Earth part of the mosaic at 2:27 p.m. PDT (5:27 p.m. EDT or 21:27 UTC) and end about 15 minutes later, all while Saturn is eclipsing the sun from Cassini’s point of view. The spacecraft’s unique vantage point in Saturn’s shadow will provide a special scientific opportunity to look at the planet’s rings. At the time of the photo, North America and part of the Atlantic Ocean will be in sunlight.
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