CURIOSITY PHOTOGRAPHS EARTH: Last year when the Cassini spacecraft photographed Earth through the rings of Saturn, the whole world was alerted to smile and wave. Last week, Curiosity did the same thing with less fanfare. Except for a few scientists, no one knew the Mars rover would be taking this picture of the Earth-Moon system on Jan. 31st:
Mission controllers used the left eye of Curiosity’s Mast Camera (Mastcam) to capture the scene about 80 minutes after local sunset in the Dingo Gap. Our planet was the brightest thing in the darkening Martian sky. A human observer with normal vision, if standing on Mars, would have easily seen Earth and the Moon as two distinct “evening stars.” The distance to Earth when Curiosity took the photo was about 99 million miles. For more information about Curiosity’s adventures on Mars, visit mars.jpl.nasa.gov.