When you look up at the sky, on a clear dark night, you're sometimes lucky enough to catch glimpses of other planets. They seem small, insignificant, surreal. Guess what? That's exactly how we look to them. Here's our pale blue dot, from Saturn. You might have to squint.
The above image was released today by NASA; it was taken by the Cassini spacecraft, some 900 million miles from home. It's as stark a reminder as any of our place in the solar system, just one small star in someone else's sky.
It's also a rare find; it's very difficult to capture pictures of the Earth from this distance because we're so relatively close to the Sun. Pointing sensitive detectors in direct view of that much brightness doesn't result in much of an image As NASA explains, this view came during an opportune moment, when Saturn had slipped behind the sun and shielded the view.
Want to feel even smaller? Here's the Earth next to the moon, also from Cassini:
This hopefully also won't be the last we see of Earth from Cassini; the craft has been orbiting Saturn since 2004, studying its rings, moons, and neighboring planets. But however much data it wrings from Titan and Jupiter, it may turn out that its most important contribution is perspective. [NASA]