The Cassini spacecraft will be photographing Earth shining next to the magnificent ring structure of Saturn, and you are invited to be in the photo. The photograph will be taken July 19, and the public, especially those people in the Americas, are encouraged to be in the photograph, waving at Cassini from our distant planet.
The picture will contain all of Saturn and its rings as they are backlit by the Sun. Earth will appear as a tiny blue dot in the bottom right-hand side of the picture, without any detail visible. However, this will be the first time ever that our home world has been imaged from such a distance in natural colors.
At the time the photo is taken, the American continents will be facing the camera and NASA is encouraging people to go out and wave at the camera as the photo is exposed. The photograph will be a 15-minute exposure, starting at 5:27 p.m. EDT. People are encouraged to send NASA photographs of themselves or loved ones waving back at the Cassini Spacecraft.
"While Earth will be only about a pixel in size from Cassini's vantage point 898 million miles away, the team is looking forward to giving the world a chance to see what their home looks like from Saturn. We hope you'll join us in waving at Saturn from Earth, so we can commemorate this special opportunity." Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory said.
Photos of the Earth from far away are rare since there is danger of burning out the sensitive cameras aboard spacecraft by looking into the Sun. So far, similar pictures have only been taken twice before. The first time was on June 6, 1990, when our planet was imaged in a photograph that became known as "The Pale Blue Dot." The second was taken by Cassini in 2006. Neither picture was taken in the colors that human eyes would see the sight.
The hard science being performed with this photo is a study of the sparse outer rings of the system, seeing how they have changed since 2006 observations by the spacecraft orbiting the ringed planet.
"Ever since we caught sight of the Earth among the rings of Saturn in September 2006 in a mosaic that has become one of Cassini's most beloved images, I have wanted to do it all over again, only better. And this time, I wanted to turn the entire event into an opportunity for everyone around the globe, at the same time, to savor the uniqueness of our beautiful blue-ocean planet and the preciousness of the life on it," Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team leader, said.
Only July 19, look up at Saturn and wave and smile, Cassini will be taking your photo.