There are really awesome. Even better than I had imagined. Earth and moon may only cover a pixel or two but the perspective with Saturn’s rings is spectacular. And to think we were all there the moment Cassini snapped the shutter. Great stuff!
Pictures of Earth from space probes in the outer solar system are rare because our planet always appears close to the sun from their perspective. Just like staring at the sun can damage your retina, a camera’s sensitive light detectors can be damaged if pointed at the sun. Here Cassini used the planet to block the sun from view much like using your hand to do the same.
The main image is only one frame of a much larger mosaic of 33 photos covering the entire ring system and globe of Saturn. Each photo or “footprint” was taken through different color filters for a total of 323 images. Some were taken for scientific purposes and some to produce a natural color mosaic, according to a NASA press release. This is the only wide-angle footprint that has the Earth-moon system in it.
Meanwhile, the Mercury MESSENGER probe was busy making pictures of our pretty planet of its own. Earth and moon have short tails in the images because the spacecraft was conducting a search for possible faint moons of Mercury at the time. The longer exposures required to reveal faint objects overexposed the Earth-moon images.