Astronomy Picture of the Day

Leaving Earth
Video Credit: NASA/JHU Applied Physics Lab/Carnegie Inst. Washington

Explanation: What it would look like to leave planet Earth? Such an event was recorded visually in great detail by the MESSENGER spacecraft as it swung back past the Earth, eight years ago, on its way in toward the planet Mercury. Earth can be seen rotating in this time-lapse video, as it recedes into the distance. The sunlit half of Earth is so bright that background stars are not visible. The robotic MESSENGER spacecraft is now in orbit around Mercury and has recently concluded the first complete map of the surface. On occasion, MESSENGER has continued to peer back at its home world. MESSENGER is one of the few things created on the Earth that has left and will never return — at the end of its mission MESSENGER will be crashed into Mercury’s surface.

Tomorrow’s picture: painting or photograph?

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