NASA releases Saturn-Earth 'photobomb' pic

NASA releases Saturn-Earth 'photobomb' pic

WASHINGTON, District of Columbia - Agence France-Presse
NASA releases Saturn-Earth photobomb pic

In this NASA handout image taken on July 19, 2013 the wide-angle camera on NASA's Cassini spacecraft has captured Saturn's rings and planet Earth and its moon in the same frame. AFP PHOTO / NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

The US space agency has released a rare photo of the Earth and moon taken from the vantage point of the outer solar system, with Saturn's rings in the shot.

The color images were taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft at a distance of nearly 1.4 billion kilometers away, NASA said.

After calling on Earthlings to wave at Cassini for the picture last week, NASA said the chance to "photobomb" another planet drew 20,000 participants, even though the Earth appears as just a tiny speck in the final image.

"The July 19 Earth-imaging event marked the first time Earthlings had advance notice that their portrait was being taken from interplanetary distances," NASA said.

"It was the also the first time Cassini's highest resolution camera captured the Earth and its Moon as two distinct objects." The unusual angle was possible because the Sun had moved behind Saturn from the spacecraft's point of view, blocking out most of the light that would otherwise have damaged the camera's detectors.

"We may not be able to see individual continents or people in this portrait of Earth, but this pale blue dot is a succinct summary of who we were on July 19," said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist, based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Cassini's picture reminds us how tiny our home planet is in the vastness of space."