The Home Planet Seen from 100 Million Miles Away

By Tom Yulsman | March 31, 2013 6:10 pm

The STEREO-B spacecraft captured this view of Earth and the Comet PanSTARRS on March 13. Also visible is the sun, to the left, which is developing an ejection of material from its outer atmosphere, or corona. (Image: NASA/GSFC/STEREO)

It’s not every day that you get to see what home looks like from 100 million miles away — at the very same time that the sun is throwing material out into space and a comet is cruising by in the inner solar system.

But that’s exactly what the STEREO-B spacecraft observed on March 13. And it sent this picture postcard back to Earth so that we could enjoy the view. (The vertical line is an artifact of the imaging process.)

This was the image of the day at NASA’s fabulous Earth Observatory. But as I did on Friday with another EO image, I’ve taken some subtle liberties here to enhance what you see. To bring out some definition in the material that the sun, at left, is ejecting from its outer atmosphere, or corona, I’ve added a little local contrast and also a smidgeon of sharpening. In addition, I toned down the luminance of the blues, to accomplish the same goal. Look carefully at the sun and you can see material streaming off into space toward, well, us.

Meanwhile, Comet PanSTARRS is between the spacecraft and Earth. The bright white dots are stars.

STEREO-B also sent home a video of the comet:

A screenshot of a movie produced by the STEREO-B spacecraft between March 9 and 12. Click to watch the movie, which shows the comet and its fluttering tail as it moves through space. (Source: NASA)

Make sure to click on the screenshot to see the movie itself. It’s pretty cool. The sun is off the screen to the left, and in the movie you can see Mercury moving in its orbit.

Speaking of Mercury, I’ve been looking for an excuse to share this image — have you seen it yet?:

Meteorite NWA 7325 is believed to have come to Earth from Mercury. (Image: Stefan Ralew /

This beauty, dubbed Meteorite NWA 7325, was found in Western Sahara in 2012 — and scientists believe that it may well have come from Mercury. If so, it would be a first: No other meteorite from Mercury has ever been found. For the nitty gritty scientific details, check out this paper by Anthony Irving of the University of Washington, which he gave at the recent Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. For a slightly less technical discussion, go here.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, select, Sun, Top Posts


ImaGeo is a visual blog focusing on the intersection of imagery, imagination and Earth. It focuses on spectacular visuals related to the science of our planet, with an emphasis (although not an exclusive one) on the unfolding Anthropocene Epoch.

About Tom Yulsman

Tom Yulsman is Director of the Center for Environmental Journalism and a Professor of Journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He also continues to work as a science and environmental journalist with more than 30 years of experience producing content for major publications. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Audubon, Climate Central, Columbia Journalism Review, Discover, Nieman Reports, and many other publications. He has held a variety of editorial positions over the years, including a stint as editor-in-chief of Earth magazine. Yulsman has written one book: Origins: the Quest for Our Cosmic Roots, published by the Institute of Physics in 2003.


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