Earth rising above the moon.

NASA's Lunar Orbiter 1 took the first photograph of Earth as seen from the vicinity of the Moon, in 1966. Forty-two years later, NASA released this much higher-resolution version reprocessed from the original analog data tapes. Credit: NASA/LOIRP

10 Things: Our Home World From Afar

By Phil Davis

Feature | April 16, 2018

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    This week we're celebrating Earth Day 2018 with some of our favorite images of Earth from afar.

    “It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.” - Neil Armstrong, Apollo 11

    Left is the view from space in 1997. Right is the view in 1990.

    1—Voyager 1: At 7.2 million Miles...and 4 Billion Miles

    Voyager famously captured two unique views of our homeworld from afar. One image, taken in 1977 from a distance of 7.3 million miles (11.7 million kilometers), showed the full Earth and full Moon in a single frame for the first time in history. The second, taken in 1990 as part of a “family portrait of our solar system from 4 billion miles (6.4 billion kilometers), shows Earth as a tiny blue speck in a ray of sunlight. This is the famous “Pale Blue Dot” image immortalized by Carl Sagan.

    “This was our willingness to see the Earth as a one-pixel object in a far greater cosmos,” Sagan’s widow, Ann Druyan said of the image. “It's that humility that science gives us. That weans us from our childhood need to be the center of things. And Voyager gave us that image of the Earth that is so heart tugging because you can't look at that image and not think of how fragile, how fragile our world is. How much we have in common with everyone with whom we share it; our relationship, our relatedness, to everyone on this tiny pixel."

    Earth as a bright camera flare.
    Kepler's view of Earth.

    2—Kepler: A Bright Flashlight in a Dark Sea of Stars

    NASA’s Kepler mission captured Earth’s image as it slipped past at a distance of 94 million miles (151 million kilometers). The reflection was so extraordinarily bright that it created a saber-like saturation bleed across the instrument’s sensors, obscuring the neighboring Moon.

    Cassini's views of Earth
    Right, Cassini's view in 2013. Left, a final look between the rings in 2017.

    3—Cassini: Hello and Goodbye

    This beautiful shot of Earth as a dot beneath Saturn’s rings was taken in 2013 as thousands of humans on Earth waved at the exact moment the spacecraft pointed its cameras at our home world. Then, in 2017, Cassini caught this final view of Earth between Saturn’s rings as the spacecraft spiraled in for its Grand Finale at Saturn.

    Earthrise above the Moon.
    NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) captured a unique view of Earth from the spacecraft's vantage point in orbit around the Moon.

    4—Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter: ‘Simply Stunning’

    "The image is simply stunning. The image of the Earth evokes the famous 'Blue Marble' image taken by astronaut Harrison Schmitt during Apollo 17...which also showed Africa prominently in the picture." -Noah Petro, Deputy Project Scientist for NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission.

    Earth from OSIRIS-REx
    As part of an engineering test, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft captured this image of the Earth and Moon.

    5—OSIRIS-REx: Goodbye—for now—at 19,000 mph

    As part of an engineering test, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft captured this image of Earth and the Moon in January 2018 from a distance of 39.5 million miles (63.6 million kilometers). When the camera acquired the image, the spacecraft was moving away from our home planet at a speed of 19,000 miles per hour (8.5 kilometers per second). Earth is the largest, brightest spot in the center of the image, with the smaller, dimmer Moon appearing to the right. Several constellations are also visible in the surrounding space.

    This view of the twilight sky and Martian horizon taken by NASA's Curiosity Mars rover includes Earth as the brightest point of light in the night sky.

    6—Curiosity: The View from Mars

    A human observer with normal vision, standing on Mars, could easily see Earth and the Moon as two distinct, bright "evening stars."

    Animated GIF of Moon crossing the face of Earth
    Earth and moon from a million miles out.

    7—DSCOVR: Moon Photobomb

    "This image from the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite captured a unique view of the Moon as it moved in front of the sunlit side of Earth in 2015. It provides a view of the far side of the Moon, which is never directly visible to us here on Earth. “I found this perspective profoundly moving and only through our satellite views could this have been shared.” - Michael Freilich, Director of NASA’s Earth Science Division

    Earth and Moon from Galileo
    The Galileo's spacecraft's view as it departed Earth.

    8—Galileo: Eight Days Out

    Eight days after its final encounter with Earththe second of two gravitational assists from Earth that helped boost the spacecraft to Jupiterthe Galileo spacecraft looked back and captured this remarkable view of our planet and its Moon. The image was taken from a distance of about 3.9 million miles (6.2 million kilometers).

    Crescent Earth as seen by Rosetta
    Rosetta's view of Earth.

    9—Rosetta: A Slice of Life

    Earth from about 393,000 miles (633,000 kilometers) away, as seen by the European Space Agency’s comet-bound Rosetta spacecraft during its third and final swingby of our home planet in 2009.

    Animated GIF of Earth receding
    MESSENGER's view departing Earth.

    10—MESSENGER: So Long

    The Mercury-bound MESSENGER spacecraft captured several stunning images of Earth during a gravity assist swingby of its home planet on Aug. 2, 2005.

    Collage of Earth Images
    A montage of Earth science images from obrit.

    BonusEarth Science: Taking a Closer Look

    Our home planet is a beautiful, dynamic place. NASA’s view from Earth orbit sees a planet at change. Check out more images of our beautiful Earth here.