NASA’s Cassini spacecraft was facing Earth during its orbit around Saturn on June 19, so it took the opportunity to photograph Earth from Saturn for the first time ever. While the Cassini's mission is observing Saturn's rings, the spacecraft also took photos of Earth.
The space agency celebrated the occasion with the “Wave at Saturn” campaign. The Cassini has already sent the first images of Earth back to NASA, but the official images still need to be processed.
On Earth, fans were encouraged to participate as the Earth had its photo taken. The public could share photos on Flickr or on social media, using #waveatsaturn, on July 19. NASA also provided charts of where to observe Saturn from Earth. The Cassini’s portrait session of Earth lasted 15 minutes, from 2:27 p.m. EDT to 2:42 p.m. EDT, and the spacecraft.
The raw images are the preliminary photos taken by the Cassini on July 19. Saturn was backlit by the sun, giving Cassini the opportunity to take photos of the planet’s rings. The spacecraft was in position also to take photos of Earth from approximately 900 million miles away. The Cassini beamed the first raw images to Earth on July 20, giving a preliminary look at Earth from Saturn.
Not surprisingly, Earth appears as a small dot in the Cassini images. The rings of Saturn are the most prominent feature in each of the photos, but the spacecraft did manage to capture Earth with the moon, its natural satellite. In one photo, the Cassini captured Earth and the moon from 857,252 miles away. The next step for NASA is to process the images. According to the space agency, that process can take several days. The full Saturn mosaic, which will shed light on the fainter rings of Saturn, will take several weeks to process.
It appears that hundreds of people took the opportunity to “wave at Saturn” on Friday. User-submitted photos of the event can be viewed on Flickr and NASA’s Facebook event page.