How many people can you fit inside a pale blue dot? Try 7 billion. We’re all there along with nearly 9 billion other species in these first photos ever taken of planet Earth by the Curiosity rover.
The pictures were made on Jan. 31, 2014 from the sandy dunes of Dingo Gap inside Gale Crater and show the Earth setting in the evening sky over the crater’s rim. If you could be there in person, the home planet would appear as a pale blue “star” shining at magnitude -1, a little fainter than Sirius, the brightest star in the skies of both planets.
The moon would also be visible very close to the planet and much fainter at around magnitude 2.7. Observers with keen vision might see the two tightly-spaced worlds with the naked eye, but a pair of binoculars would come in handy for most of us.
If you happened to pack your telescope along and pointed it at Earth, you’d be delighted to see our planet as a thick crescent and near its greatest brilliancy. Because Earth orbits the sun inside Mars’ orbit, it passes through phases exactly like Venus and Mercury do as seen from Earth.
These aren’t the first photos of Earth from Mars. The Spirit Rover took a portrait of the home base in 2004 and NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor did the same in 2003 and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in 2007.
Every one of these images is a great treasure. They remind us that Earth swims in a cosmos vast beyond imagination.