The world of science news, commentary, and blogging has recently been quite interested in a photo released by NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), showing the Earth as seen from the Cassini probe, which is currently orbiting the gas giant planet Saturn.
At first glance, the picture strikes me as a scene out of the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. The gas giant looms in the foreground, lit from behind, from our perspective, by the light of the Sun, which it is blocking out. In fact, blocking out the Sun is a crucial element of this image. Removing the Sun’s overwhelming glare allows us to see, in the far distance, a tiny sparkle – the planet Earth, 898 million miles away. This image, taken on July 19th, is in fact only the third picture ever taken of the planet Earth from the outer solar system.