Now this might not look like much, but that is a picture taken on MARS and in the sky is everything we have ever known or loved in one tiny blue dot (hat tip to Carl for that thought) …
Hey, I can’t see it, can you zoom in?
Sure, here you go, and guess what, there is the moon as well …
Now for some details.
When was this picture taken? Researchers used the left eye camera of Curiosity’s Mast Camera (Mastcam) to capture this scene about 80 minutes after sunset on the 529th Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s work on Mars (Jan. 31, 2014). This image combines information from three separate exposures taken by Mastcam’s right-eye camera, which has a telephoto lens, and has also been processed to remove the effects of cosmic rays.
Ah, so if I was standing on the surface of Mars I would not see it? Actually, you would easily see Earth and the moon as two distinct, bright “evening stars.”
So where can I go to get the NASA originals? They are available at …
- http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA17936 for a broad scene of the evening sky
- http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA17935 for a zoomed-in view of Earth and the moon.
So how far away is Earth? Now that’s a good question, Mars and Earth can be very far apart or quite close, it all depends upon where they are in their distinct orbits. The distance between Earth and Mars when Curiosity took the photo above was about 99 million miles (160 million kilometres). To give you an idea for the context of that, the farthest away we get is 249 million miles, and the closest we could ever get is about 36 million miles (and that will next happen in 2018, so we will see Mars then as quite distinctly bright and red).
So look up and smile, because somebody is taking a picture … and that is not just any picture, that is everything and everybody.