Don’t get too excited, I’ve been staring at the little white dot for hours and I still can’t find myself. What we know as the lush life-cradling planet we call home appears from the Martian vantage point as little more than a speck of dust on your computer screen. Never the less, Curiosity‘s photo of Earth from Mars gives us a unique perspective on our very existence, highlighting both our immense solitude in our solar system and the accomplishments we’ve made toward understanding it.
Curiosity snapped the photo of Earth using its “left-eye” camera (presumably named after the fallen TLC member). (NASA, JPL-CALTECH)
“A human observer with normal vision, if standing on Mars, could easily see Earth and the moon as two distinct, bright ‘evening stars,'” NASA officials said of the photo. They added that the photos are largely unmodified. All that NASA technicians did was remove certain effects created by cosmic rays – the astronomical equivalent of correcting for red-eye.
The photo was snapped just after the Martian sunset (which I hear is even more romantic than ours) on day 529 (Martian days) of Curiosity’s mission. The rover has been exploring a region called the “Gale Crater” since August of 2012.
What a cute couple. This enhanced resolution photo shows the earth and its even fainter and more speck-like moon. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/TAMU)
Curiosity is not the first rover to take our picture without even asking us. The Spirit rover snapped one in 2004 and some deep space probes have taken our candid shot from even farther out. NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has taken our photo multiple times while orbiting Saturn and its Messenger spacecraft (currently orbiting Mercury) has photographed all the planets it could from its spot next to the sun.
The video below features more images of Earth from Mars, all set to some sexy soft core porn music.
Curiosity’s photo brings to mind the original “Pale Blue Dot” photo taken by Voyager 1 in 1990, of which Carl Sagan wrote in his book “Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space”:
“From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.”
Does this photo speak to our relative insignificance our in the universe or to our profound ability to explore it? Are there undiscovered Martian life forms who see our shining white speck every evening? And most importantly, do you think Curiosity got our good side?