Pictures of Earth from Mars
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NASA's Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft has captured
unique images of a lovely blue alien world: Earth
May 22, 2003: Have you ever wondered what you would see if you were on Mars looking at the Earth through a small telescope? A new picture from NASA's Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) spacecraft, currently orbiting Mars, reveals the answer.
This first-ever image of its kind not only shows Mother Earth as a tiny alien world in the vast darkness of space, but also includes Earth's moon and a view of the giant planet Jupiter with some of its larger moons, too. The camera aboard Mars Global Surveyor photographed Earth and Jupiter in an alignment, as seen in the evening sky of Mars, at 9 a.m. EDT, May 8, 2003.
"We've spent the last six-and-a-half years staring at Mars right in front of us," says Michael Malin, president and chief scientist of Malin Space Science Systems (MSSS), of San Diego, who operates the camera aboard Mars Global Surveyor. "Taking this picture allowed us to look up from the work of exploring Mars ... and gain a new perspective on the neighborhood, one in which we can see our own planet as one among many."
The image of Earth shows our home as a planetary disk, in a "half-Earth" phase. The bright area at the top of the image of Earth is cloud cover over central and eastern North America. Below that, a darker area includes Central America and the Gulf of Mexico. Another bright feature is caused by clouds over South America.
Above: The half-Earth as seen by Mars Global Surveyor. An overlay shows the continents North and South America at the time of the exposure. Credit: NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems. [more]
Mars Global Surveyor also photographed Jupiter and three of its four Galilean satellites: Callisto, Ganymede, and Europa. At the time, Jupiter's giant red spot had rotated out of view, and, the other so-called Galilean satellite, Io, was behind Jupiter as seen from Mars. This image has been specially processed to show both Jupiter and its satellites, because Jupiter was much brighter than its moons.
Mars Global Surveyor, one of the most successful missions to Mars ever undertaken, has been orbiting the red planet since September 1997. The mission has examined the entire martian surface and provided a wealth of information, including some stunning high-resolution imagery, about the planet's atmosphere and interior.
Right: Mars Global Surveyor also photographed Jupiter and three of its moons on May 8, 2003. Only Europa is pictured here; you can see Ganymede and Callisto, too, in a larger version of this image. Credit: NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems. [more]
Evaluation of landing sites for NASA's two Mars Exploration Rover missions and the British Beagle 2 lander mission has relied heavily on mineral mapping, detailed imagery and topographic measurements by MGS. NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers and the European Space Agency's Mars Express mission, which carries the Beagle 2 mission, are due to launch this summer and arrive at Mars starting late December 2003 through January 2004.
Mars Exploration -- learn more about NASA's missions to Mars from JPL.
Malin Space Science Systems (MSSS) and the California Institute of Technology built the Mars Orbiter Camera. MSSS operates the camera from its facilities in San Diego, CA.
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, manages Mars Global Surveyor for NASA's Office of Space Science in Washington. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. JPL's industrial partner is Lockheed Martin Astronautics, Denver, which developed and operates the spacecraft.