Credit: NASA, Nov. 20, 2016.

Mars-eye view of Earth and the Moon

Credit: NASA, Nov. 20, 2016.

Credit: NASA, Nov. 20, 2016.

By now, we’ve become accustomed to marveling at the images of cosmic objects — some nearby like the solar system’s planets, others much farther away like distant galaxies. High-res images of nebulae, quasars or Jupiter’s magnetic storms are all simply stunning and a testament to how far science has gone. But despite the deep implications of such observations, both scientific and philosophical, we sometimes risk overestimating our role in the cosmos. Even unconsciously, an Earth-centric observational viewpoint can give the impression that we’re the pinnacle of the universe when, in fact, humans have been around for only an instant at a cosmic scale and occupy a pale blue dot, as Carl Sagan used to call Earth.

If you don’t feel humble yet when faced with the infinite possibilities and scale of the Universe, this image recently beamed back by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will change your mind. The view combines two images taken by the orbiter’s HiRISE camera on Nov. 20, 2016, whose brightness was adjusted so that details of Earth and its moon could show.

Take a moment to contemplate the significance of this view taken from 127 million miles away by a spacecraft we built. And if you look close enough, you might even recognize the continent or country you call home. The reddish feature at the center is Australia and the bright white feature at the bottom of the Earth is Antarctica. Right above Australia is East Asia.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b58SfRphkKc

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About Tibi Puiu

Tibi is a science journalist and co-founder of ZME Science. He writes mainly about emerging tech, physics, climate, and space. In his spare time, Tibi likes to make weird music on his computer and groom felines.

3 thoughts on “Mars-eye view of Earth and the Moon

  1. Brian

    I could not find out if this was an actual photo of the two where the moon happened to be nearly aligned with the earth or if as a mosaic, they just put the two together with a computer. The Earth moon distance is 100 times or so more than the apparent distance in this image.

  2. tibipuiu

    It's a combined image of two shots. Per nasa:

    "The image combines two separate exposures taken on Nov. 20, 2016, by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The images were taken to calibrate HiRISE data, since the reflectance of the moon's Earth-facing side is well known. For presentation, the exposures were processed separately to optimize detail visible on both Earth and the moon. The moon is much darker than Earth and would barely be visible if shown at the same brightness scale as Earth."

    The relative distances, however, are correct.

    "The combined view retains the correct positions and sizes of the two bodies relative to each other. The distance between Earth and the moon is about 30 times the diameter of Earth. Earth and the moon appear closer than they actually are in this image because the observation was planned for a time at which the moon was almost directly behind Earth, from Mars' point of view, to see the Earth-facing side of the moon. "

    http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=6716

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