Looking back from its orbit around Mercury, NASA’s Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft captured this view of Earth and the Moon on May 6, 2010.
The spacecraft was 183 million kilometres (114 million miles) from Earth at the time, farther than our average distance from the Sun (150 million kilometres, or 93 million miles) because Mercury and Earth were at different places in their orbits around the Sun.
The image was taken by the spacecraft’s Wide Angle Camera (WAC) on the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS).
The view was a happy coincidence for the MESSENGER science team, as the probe was looking for vulcanoids, small rocky objects that have been postulated to hide in orbits between Mercury and the Sun.
MESSENGER is the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury since Mariner 10 in 1974-75. It is not, however, the first to get a long-distance shot of Earth. Below are some others, and you can see more of them on the Planetary Society’s site here.
NASA image provided by the MESSENGER science team, NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington. Text adapted from information issued by Mike Carlowicz, NASA.
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