Released of Mother Earth from Mars
May 22, 2003
Have you ever wondered what you would see if you
were on Mars looking at Earth through a small telescope? Now you can
find out, thanks to a unique view of our world recently captured by
NASA's Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft currently orbiting the red
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 a view of the giant planet Jupiter and some of its
larger moons. The camera aboard Mars Global Surveyor photographed both
planets in an alignment, as seen in the evening sky of Mars, at 6 a.m.
Pacific Time (9 a.m. EDT) on May 8, 2003.
"From our Mars orbital-camera perspective, we've
spent the last six-and-a-half years staring at Mars right in front of
us," said Dr. Michael Malin, president and chief scientist of Malin
Space Science Systems, of San Diego, who operates the camera aboard
Mars Global Surveyor. "Taking this picture allowed us to look up from
that work of exploring Mars and take in a more panoramic view. This
image gives us a new perspective on that neighborhood, one in which we
can see our own planet as one among many."
The image is available on the Internet at:
The image of Earth actually shows our home as a
planetary disc, in a "half-Earth" phase. The image has been specially
processed to allow both Earth and the much darker Moon to be visible
together. 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. The bright
feature near the center-right of the crescent Earth consists of clouds
over northern South America.
The image also shows the Earth-facing hemisphere of
the Moon, since the Moon was on the far side of Earth as viewed from
Mars. The slightly lighter tone of the lower portion of the image of
the Moon results from the large and conspicuous ray system associated
with the crater Tycho.
The image also shows Jupiter and three of its four
Galilean moons: 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, since Jupiter was much brighter than the three satellites.
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.
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 Mars Global Surveyor. 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
in late December 2003 and January 2004.
More information about Mars Global Surveyor is
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.,
manages Mars Global Surveyor for NASA's Office of Space Science in
Washington, D.C. 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. Malin
Space Science Systems and the California Institute of Technology built
the Mars Orbiter Camera, and Malin Space Science Systems operates the
camera from its facilities in San Diego, Calif.