July 19, 2013
NASA Asking Everyone To Photobomb Cassini
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
"Cassini has photographed Earth before, but this will be the first time Earthlings know in advance their picture will be taken from a billion miles away," says Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. "We hope that people around the world will go outside to wave at Saturn while the photo-shoot is underway."
The US space agency said that Cassini's cameras will be positioned on Earth during a 15-minute interval that begins at 2:27 p.m. Pacific time Friday, July 19.
"I am excited about this rare opportunity to send photons of all of us waving at Saturn," adds Spilker. "I am encouraging my family and friends to wave at Saturn on that day also."
From Cassini's vantage point, Saturn will eclipse the sun so that the rings are backlit. Earth will be appearing as a tiny blue speck just outside the E ring.
NASA says opportunities to take pictures of Earth from other areas in the solar system are rare. So far, only two images of Earth from the outer solar system have ever been taken. The Voyager 1 spacecraft took the first and most distant image of Earth 23 years ago from Neptune, and the second was taken by Cassini from the Saturn system in 2006.
"Ever since we caught sight of Earth among the rings of Saturn in September 2006, I have wanted to do it all over again, only better," said Carolyn Porco, the Cassini imaging team lead at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado. "This time, I wanted to turn the event into an opportunity for people all over the globe to celebrate together the extraordinary achievements that have made such interplanetary photo sessions possible."
The upcoming photo-shoot will be better than the 2006 image because it will be the first to capture the Saturn system with Earth in natural color, as human eyes would see it. The image will also be the first to capture Earth and its moon with Cassini's highest-resolution camera.
NASA says if you live in North America, the best way to photobomb Cassini's image tomorrow is to go outside, face east, and wave at the blue sky. The space agency pointed out that you will not be able to see Saturn at that time because it will be daylight. However, after sunset Saturn will have moved into the southwestern sky and will be about twice as bright as a first magnitude star.
"Seeing the whole mosaic of the backlit rings when it is put together will be incredible," says Spilker. "We will be looking for changes in Saturn's faint rings, especially the E ring, from the mosaic we took back in 2006."
Cassini has helped shed a lot of light on the solar system's ringed planet. Most recently the spacecraft has unveiled the mysteries behind storms on Saturn. Scientists reported in the journal Nature Geoscience in June that they used data from Cassini and computer models to help explain the behavior of giant storms on Saturn for the first time.