NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows Earth and its moon from between Saturn's rings

NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows Earth and its moon from between Saturn's rings
Source: AP
Source: AP

NASA's Cassini spacecraft, which orbits Saturn, took a picture of Earth from between Saturn's rings — with Earth's moon doing a bit of photobombing. Captured at 1:41 a.m. Eastern on April 12, 2017, the spacecraft was 870 million miles away from its home planet when it took the image.

This view from NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows planet Earth as a point of light between the icy rings of Saturn.
Source: 
Cassini Imaging Team

Earth is seen as a tiny bright speck in the center of the picture. Upon cropping and zooming in, its moon can be seen to the left as an even smaller dot. The photograph, captured by the Imaging Science Subsystem, doesn't clearly show which part of Earth is facing the ringed planet at the time the picture was taken, but NASA has revealed it is the southern Atlantic Ocean.

Cropping and zooming reveals Earth's moon to the left of Earth.
Source: 
Cassini Imaging Team

Saturn's rings were first discovered by Galileo Galilei in 1610. According to NASA, the rings captured in the image are Saturn's A ring and F ring; the A ring is at the top and the smaller F ring is at the bottom. "During this observation, Cassini was looking toward the backlit rings, making a mosaic of multiple images, with the sun blocked by the disk of Saturn," NASA wrote on its website.

The Keeler and Encke gaps are also seen in the image. The Keeler gap is a 26-mile-wide gap in Saturn's A ring created by the presence of the moon Daphnis. The Encke gap — also within Saturn's A ring — is visible in the upper right of the photo. The 200-mile-wide Encke gap includes the moon Pan.

The Cassini spacecraft launched on Oct. 15, 1997 and arrived in the Saturn system in June 2004. Its Huygens probe later touched down on Saturn's largest moon, Titan, on Jan. 14, 2005. Since then, the spacecraft — a collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency — has been studying Saturn and its moons.

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