NASA releases historic Saturn photo

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

Saturn Cassini
Here’s what Saturn’s natural colors look like, in a photo taken by Cassini back in 2004.

If you’ve ever wondered what the Earth might look like to any other intelligent beings in outer space, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has a magnificent picture to show you. Feast your eyes upon the only photo ever taken of Saturn, that includes Earth, Venus, and Mars in the background.

Launched in 1997, Cassini has spent more than 9 years exploring Saturn and will continue collecting data on the planet’s rings and moons through 2017. The ringed gas giant is the sixth planet from the Sun and the second largest one in our Solar System. Only Jupiter is bigger.

To provide the historic shot of Saturn, Earth, Venus, and Mars, Cassini used both wide-angle and narrow-angle cameras to snap 323 images of the planet in about four hours. Then, an imaging team put together a final mosaic that combines 141 of the wide-angle images, blending photos taken with the red, green, and blue camera filters.

The entire image spans about 405,000 miles of Saturn and its inner ring system, all the way out to Saturn’s second outermost ring, the E ring. Seven of Saturn’s moons can also be seen, including the icy south pole of Enceladus if you zoom in.

“This mosaic provides a remarkable amount of high-quality data on Saturn’s diffuse rings, revealing all sorts of intriguing structures we are currently trying to understand,” said Matt Hedman, a Cassini participating scientist at the University of Idaho in Moscow.

Images courtesy of NASA.