This August 1998 NASA file image shows a true color photo of Saturn assembled from Voyager 2 spacecraft. (NASA/HO/AFP)
Want star treatment? Today marks a rare chance to have your picture taken … from 898 million miles away.
For only the third time since we’ve been exploring space, and for the first time since 2006, the planets are aligning — literally — in such a way that Saturn will be blocking the sun’s harshest rays. And that means NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, which is currently dedicated to “cruising around Saturn, its moons and the magnificent rings,” can shoot images of Earth and the ringed planet without worrying about frying the cameras, NASA says.
During a 15-minute period starting at 5:27 p.m. Eastern time and ending at 5:42 p.m. (from 2:27 p.m. until 2:42 p.m. Pacific time), Cassini’s cameras will take a series of pictures of the whole Saturn system and of Earth. “We encourage Earthlings to go outside and to wave at our robotic photographer,” NASA writes on its Wave at Saturn Facebook page. “Look in the direction of Saturn and send us pictures of yourselves waving.” (You can also post them to the group’s dedicated Flickr page. For the tweeters out there, use #WaveatSaturn.) (Above: Images of Saturn from Cassini)
A simulated view from NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows the expected positions of Saturn and Earth on July 19, 2013, when Cassini will take Earth's picture. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)
Cassini’s Earth image will be just 1.5 pixels wide. But the pictures of Saturn’s rings could provide important clues about how they and the planet have changed over time, notes a NASA press release.
“There have been only two images of Earth from the outer solar system in all the time humankind has been venturing out into space,” the release reads. “The first and most distant was one was taken 23 years ago by NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft from 4 billion miles (6 billion kilometers away), showing Earth as a pale blue dot. The other opportunity was Cassini’s image in 2006 from 926 million miles (1.49 billion kilometers).”
Now’s your chance to be a part of space history. So step outside, smile and say cheese.
MORE: Beautiful Images of Saturn
NASA's Cassini spacecraft snapped this view of a monster hurricane at Saturn's North Pole. The eye of the cyclone is 1,250 miles across. That's 20 times larger than the typical eye of a hurricane here on Earth. The hurricane is believed to have been there for years. (AP Photo/NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)