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Jul 23, 2013 09:30 AM EDT

NASA Releases Stunning Pictures of Earth and the Moon Captured by Two Distant Spacecrafts

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Photographs taken by two NASA interplanetary spacecrafts, located near Saturn and Mercury paints the Earth and Moon in a different color from hundreds and millions of miles away.

Earth looks like a tiny pale bluish dot, while moon is seen as a stark white dot, in color photographs taken from the Cassini spacecraft on July 19. In this picture, the earth, nearly 900 million miles (1.5 billion kilometres) away, has beige rings of Saturn hovering above it.

"We can't see individual continents or people in this portrait of Earth, but this pale blue dot is a succinct summary of who we were on July 19," said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist . "Cassini's picture reminds us how tiny our home planet is in the vastness of space and also testifies to the ingenuity of the citizens of this tiny planet to send a robotic spacecraft so far away from home to study Saturn and take a look-back photo of Earth."

This is the first time Cassini has been able to take a photo of Earth. Pictures of the Earth from the outer solar system are uncommon because from that distance, Earth appears very close to the sun. Cassini was able to capture the snap because the sun was temporarily blocked behind Saturn.

Another distant photograph was taken from the MESSENGER spacecraft from a distance of 61 million miles away, near Mercury. MESSENGER is the first probe to orbit Mercury.

The black-and-white image of Earth and the moon are less than a pixel, but appear very large because they are overexposed. Long exposures are required to capture as much light as possible from potentially dim objects. Without overexposure, no particulars of the Earth and moon can be seen because they are each less than one pixel in size.

"That images of our planet have been acquired on a single day from two distant solar system outposts reminds us of this nation's stunning technical accomplishments in planetary exploration," said, Sean Solomon, MESSENGER principal investigator said. "And because Mercury and Saturn are such different outcomes of planetary formation and evolution, these two images also highlight what is special about Earth. There's no place like home."

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