The tides of Venus

The tides of Venus

Wave, you’re all on camera - pictures of Earth from space.

Don’t you just love election time? I’ll not say too much about it in this post. I’m sure like me you are all saturated with rhetoric, promises, facts checked and not checked. I’d like to bring some calm to the proceedings, so let’s take a different perspective on the world we live. What do our planetary neighbours see of us?

The first picture of Earth taken from the surface of another planet. Taken by the Spirit rover before its untimely demise, it shows the Martian sky an hour before sunrise. NASA

That’s us, from our nearest neighbour Mars. To them we’d be the “morning” or “evening” star that Venus is to Earth. On close inspection from Mars you could possibly make our our companion, the moon, in orbit around us.

The Earth and the moon, taken from the Mars Global surveyor. NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems

Arm a Martian with a telescope (or a satellite in space) and they would be able to see the fuzzy blue dot in more detail and on a good day see the shapes of the continents. You may even be able to see Australia from Mars.

What if we go in the other direction, towards the sun to Mercury to get a view of Earth. The MESSENGER spacecraft, which is in orbit about the planet closest to the sun, took this image last month.

The Earth and the moon from MESSENGER at Mercury. The lower images are computer generated images of which way the Earth and Moon were facing when the picture was taken. NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

On the same day that MESSENGER snapped its image of Earth, Cassini caught our other side from Saturn.

Saturn, its rings, the Earth and our moon all captured in the one picture. The moon is there - look carefully to the right of the Earth (which is marked by the arrow). NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Cassini has been in orbit around Saturn since 2004, and has made some startling discoveries about the planet, its rings and moons. Now in the “solstice” of its mission, in July Cassini turned its attention on us.

What about the very edge of our solar system? Well, before it ambled out of the solar system, the Voyager I spacecraft turned about to taken this image.

The ‘pale blue dot’ picture. Caught in a sunbeam, that’s the Earth, taken by the Voyager I spacecraft as it journeyed to the edge of our solar system. NASA

It’s some measure of the achievement of humanity that we can even take pictures such as these. I’ll close with words from someone put the significance such images much better than I, Carl Sagan. Speaking of the “pale blue dot” picture taken by Voyager I, he said:

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.