The solar system just got a bit smaller thanks to two awe-inspiring portraits of Earth and the moon taken from nearly the opposite sides of the solar system.
On Friday July 19th, Earth got a great two for one deal. Both NASA’s Cassini spacecraft at Saturn, nearly 900 million miles (1.5 billion kilometers) away, and the MESSENGER probe, orbiting Mercury 61 million miles (98 million kilometers) away captured a tiny pixelated image of Earth and the moon. (Related: Earth Photobombs Saturn Shot.)
Positioned on the far-side of Saturn, Cassini’s highest resolution cameras were able to convey Earth as a pale blue dot and the white moon between Saturn’s rings.
“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,” said Linda Spilker, Cassini’s project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California in a press statement.
The Mercury orbiter also caught an even tinier, black and white glimpse of Earth and the moon – both less than a 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 in a press statement.
“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.”
View more stunning NASA images of Earth here.