the earth-moon system from 31 million miles out — “a soft focus blue and white ball, all its cultures and countries concealed”

Just saw this via the Astronomy Picture of the Day for today (September 3, 2008). Very very very cool.

The EPOXI spacecraft captured these images of the moon transiting Earth, on Monday 28-29, 2008.  The website says that “When the images were acquired, the spacecraft was just outside the orbit of the Earth and ahead of Earth by 31 million miles, 1/3 AU, making it as far from Earth as Mercury is from the Sun.”

It was amazing to see the whole earth from space via the cameras of the Apollo 8 astronauts. Now we can see it from the EPOXI spacecraft 31 million miles away.

For some reason, I’ve been sitting here trying to remember exactly what I was doing that morning (May 28th or 29th) — though how that information would help me appreciate or grasp this video, i don’t know.  I guess it’s just me trying to imagine myself ON that “pale blue dot,” trying to place myself, whatever that means. Anyone else do that when you see an earth-from-space photo? Try to remember where you were or what you were doing? Or am I just weird?

Anyway, here’s a poem published on the EPOXI website which I like:

FROM A DISTANCE by Stuart Atkinson (July 2008)

Just think…
To the eyes of an alien Voyager,
built on and flung hard away from
an exotic, alien world whirling ’round
some faraway star, Earth would look like that:
a soft focus blue and white ball,
all its cultures and countries concealed
beneath congealed-cream, candyfloss clouds,
little more than a Christmas tree bauble
bobbing about in an ocean of ink…

Just think…
On one Far Future day, a pale,
proud martian kid will say “THAT’s Earth?
Big deal!” as they gaze grudgingly
into a telescope eyepiece to peer
at Barsoom’s Evening Star…
But they’ll secretly marvel at the view,
wondering if all the blue really is cool,
clear water, as the computers they use at school say…

How strange…
To think that some day people will see
an image as vague and watery as this,
as a telescope aimed at a faraway star
sees a glint in the distant sun’s glare;
a roomful of scientists will stare at its
magnified portrait and whisper “We’ve
found it, an ocean-washed world just like ours,
an Earth circling an alien sun…”

But for today…
See how dark the disc of Luna is
as she skates past Terra’s face?
Against Earth’s hues of white and blue
Selene’s gown is as brown as dirt, as dark
as just-ploughed soil soaked by rain.
So strange to see the brilliant Moon
that has made so many lovers swoon
reduced to a mere muddy sphere…

And for now, good night from the dark side.

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