The photo of “earthrise” taken by Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders has been described by many, including Life magazine, as one of the most influential photos of all time. It has been credited with vitalizing the environmental movement.
It sure is rad.
Humans have not yet traveled further than the moon, but photos taken by our various probes occasionally include a glimpse of the Earth that really sets into perspective the glory of the cosmos.
The first one to excite me a was a commissioned photo. It was commissioned by science writer / astrophysicist Carl Sagan. Shortly after Voyager 1 moved beyond the orbit of Pluto, Sagan asked NASA to turn the probe around and take a photo of the earth. In response NASA imaged a wide angle view that includes the sun and plenty of lens flare followed by narrow angle photos of the regions where each of Earth and Venus were calculated to be. The images are assembled into the mosaic below. The images spurred Sagan to use his now famous line “pale blue dot” to describe our home.
The radness doesn’t end there. There is a probe in orbit around Mercury that took some photos of the earth at a distance of 183 million kilometers (the sun is ~150 million km away). From the neighborhood of Mercury or Venus, Earth will always be nearly “full” making it far brighter in the sky than those planets are to us.
But wait, there’s more! For me, the prize winner in the category of “visually stunning”, is a solar eclipse. The sun is being eclipsed by Saturn, as seen from the Cassini probe, creating a stunning vista. To top it off, Earth is just visible beyond the bright rings to the left.
The solar system is so damn beautiful.
More of this splendour is in my vision for the future. You can read about it here.