Breathtaking New Image Shows Our Tiny Planet And Moon From Mars

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FIONA MACDONALD
9 JAN 2017
 

There's nothing that puts your life into perspective quite like staring down on our little blue marble from the vast expanse of space.

This incredible new NASA image, captured by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, not only shows our planet in continental detail from Mars, but also displays the relative size of our tiny lunar satellite, the Moon.

 

The image was taken as part of a calibration exercise for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's HiRISE camera, and shows Earth at a distance of around 205 million kilometres (127 million miles).

The view is so clear, you can even see the continents of Earth, with Australia visible as the reddish blob at the centre of the globe, and South East Asia visible to the top left. The bright spot at the bottom is Antarctica, and the other white patches are clouds.

You can see it in full below, and a high-res version here:

pia21260-16NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

The image combines two separate exposures taken on 20 November 2016, with their brightness slightly adjusted so that the Moon would show up in comparison to the brightness of Earth.  

But don't be deceived - although the Moon and Earth look incredibly close together in this image, that's because at the time the Moon was almost directly behind Earth from Mars's point of view, so it looks a lot closer than it really is.

 

In reality, the distance between our planet and the Moon is about 30 times the diameter of Earth, which is 384,400 km (238,855 miles).

That's just about enough to fit all the planets in between us and our satellite (although not as comfortably as Internet memes might have you believe - more on that here).

Here's what that looks like in perspective:

planets linedup.jpg.CROP.original-originalBuzzfeed Blue/YouTube

Despite how tiny our Moon might look in these images, it's actually the fifth largest moon in the Solar System, and it's the largest moon relative to its host planet. (Pluto's moon Charon is larger, but Pluto's no longer a planet.)

It's crazy to think that in the future we could have humans on Mars looking back on this view, as a stark reminder of how beautiful the water-laden planet we came from really is. 

Neil Armstrong said it best: "It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small."

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