NASA has released a new panoramic mosaic of Saturn along with its rings and moons. While Earth appears as a tiny blue dot, Mars and Venus are also visible in the natural color image.
The stunning image was taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft, which shows the planets just as they would appear to a naked human eye.
The image is a part of a campaign by NASA called "Wave at Saturn". The agency had notified people that the Cassini would be taking earth's picture from a billion miles.
The panoramic mosaic was created by Cassini's imaging team using 141 wide-angle images. The image packs together 404,880 miles. An annotated version of the image shows Earth as a blue dot to the lower right of Saturn. A bright dot to the Saturn's upper left is Venus while Mars appears as a pale, red dot near Venus. Saturn's seven moons, including Enceladus, are also visible. A zoomed image also shows ice from Enceladus feeding the E ring, the second outermost ring of Saturn, according to the agency.
Cassini had to wait for the sun to slip behind Saturn (from the probe's point of view) to capture a perfect shot. The moment came on July 19, when the craft got a good shot at earth and its moon along with Saturn's ring system.
"In this one magnificent view, Cassini has delivered to us a universe of marvels," said Carolyn Porco, Cassini's imaging team lead at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo, according to a news release. "And it did so on a day people all over the world, in unison, smiled in celebration at the sheer joy of being alive on a pale blue dot."
E-ring appears like a halo around the planet. The mosaic also provides astronomers an opportunity to closely analyze Saturn's rings.
"This mosaic provides a remarkable amount of high-quality data on Saturn's diffuse rings, revealing all sorts of intriguing structures we are currently trying to understand," said Matt Hedman, a Cassini participating scientist at the University of Idaho in Moscow, in a news release. "The E ring in particular shows patterns that likely reflect disturbances from such diverse sources as sunlight and Enceladus' gravity."
More images are available on NASA's website.