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Friday, July 19, 2013


Saturn image via NASA's Cassini spacecraft

PHOTOBOMB FRIDAY—Guest Blog by Dr. Tony Phillips, it the first interplanetary photobomb. On July 19th, NASA's Cassini spacecraft will photograph Earth through the rings of Saturn--and NASA wants you to jump into the shot.

"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."

This will be the first time Earthlings have had advance notice that their picture will be taken from interplanetary distances. Cassini's cameras will be trained on Earth during a 15 minute interval that begins at 2:27 p.m. PDT  or 5:27 p.m. EDT.

"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."

The circumstances of this photo-op are extraordinary.  From Cassini's point of view, the body of Saturn will eclipse the sun, so that the rings are magnificently backlit.  Earth will appear as a tiny blue speck just outside the E ring.

Opportunities to image Earth from the outer solar system are rare.  Since the Space Age began, there have been only two images of Earth from the outer solar system. The first and most distant was taken 23 years ago by NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft beyond Neptune. The second was Cassini's image from the Saturn system in 2006.

Cassini's image of Earth in 2006 inspired Carolyn Porco, the Cassini imaging team lead at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado. "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," she says. "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."

This photo-shoot will improve upon Cassini's previous effort in two ways:  The July 19, 2013, image will be the first to capture the Saturn system with Earth in natural color, as human eyes would see it. It also will be the first to capture Earth and its moon with Cassini's highest-resolution camera.

The Americas will be facing Saturn at the time of the image.   For North Americans, the event happens in broad daylight, so the best way to participate is to go outside, face east, and wave at the blue sky.  You won’t be able to see Saturn, but it is there.

For more information about the "Wave at Saturn" event, please visit  It's also on Facebook at


Author: Dr. Tony Phillips| Production editor: Dr. Tony Phillips | Credit: Science@NASA

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