Top Ten Astronomy Pictures of 2009

By Phil Plait | December 15, 2009 6:00 am

 

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#8: Home

Rosetta is an impressive European spacecraft on its way to the unlikely-named comet 67 P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Once it arrives in 2014 it will extensively map the comet’s solid nucleus and, incredibly, even deploy a lander which will take close-up pictures and sample the comet’s material.

Comets are on orbits that can make them difficult to reach, so the gravity of planets must be "borrowed" to get the probe to its destination. In November 2009, Rosetta swung by the Earth for its third and final assist. While it was still over 600,000 km (360,000 miles) away, it took this remarkable image of our home.

I look at pictures of Earth from space every day, and it’s easy to forget how special our world is. Pictures like this remind us how stunning and beautiful it is. And better yet, in my mind, the crescent shape is so similar to the way we think of the Moon and Venus that’s it a strong reminder that we are but one world of many, a planet both mundane and special, ordinary and unique.

Plus, I’m a sucker for home pictures.

Original news story

BA Blog post

Credit: ESA ©2009 MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/RSSD/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

 

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