Taken May 11, 2005, this processed image comes from the narrow-angle camera of the Mercury Dual Imaging System, or MDIS, on NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft. Earth was about 18.4 million miles (29.6 million kilometers) from MESSENGER at the time, but the image clearly shows bands of clouds between North and South America on Earth's sunlit side. The photo has been cropped from the full MDIS image size of 1024 by 1024 pixels, and the contrast adjusted to bring out the Moon in the same frame.
(The Moon is actually much darker than the Earth — click here for an image showing true, relative brightness.)
The Moon was 248,898 miles (400,563 kilometers) from Earth at the time of the image. The photo session was just part of the preparations for MESSENGER's gravity assist flyby of Earth on Aug. 2, 2005— the first major adjustment to MESSENGER's flight path toward Mercury. MESSENGER was launched on Aug. 3, 2004; after the Earth flyby, two flybys of Venus and three of Mercury, it will begin an unprecedented, yearlong science orbit around the innermost planet in March 2011.
Click here for a version of this image without Earth/Moon labels.
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington
To save photo: