NASA captures incredible shot of the Earth and moon from 3 million miles away
There’s nothing quite like a staggering shot of our planet, taken from space, to make you realise just how small we are in the grand scheme of things.
The latest image, captured by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, shows Earth as a relatively small dot on the left of the frame with our moon on the far right.
The composite image of the Earth and moon was made using data captured by the craft’s MapCam on 2 October 2017, when OSIRIS-REx was approximately 3,370,000 miles (5,420,000km) from the moon and 3,180,000 miles (5,120,000km) from Earth — or about 13 times the separation distance between the two bodies. Only at that range could both be captured in the same frame.
Three images were combined and colour-corrected to make the composite, across different wavelengths, and the moon was brightened to make it more easily visible.
OSIRIS-Rex – which stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification and Security-Regolith Explorer – is on its way to map and return samples from an asteroid called Bennu. Bennu is a carbon-rich chunk of rock that scientists believe could contain organic materials or “molecular precursors to life”. Asteroids are remnants from when our solar system formed and can unlock secrets of how life began, among many other things.
Bennu is also interesting because it has the potential to one day make a close pass to, or even strike, Earth – although not for several centuries.
The spacecraft launched in September 2016 is expected to reach Bennu in December 2018. Although its approach operations will start in August, it isn’t due to return its samples to Earth until 24 September 2023. If successful, OSIRIS-REx will be the first US craft to return samples from an asteroid.