On July 19th 2013 the Cassini Spacecraft turned its camera back to Earth. As it rotated its gaze towards home, it captured stunning images of our planet. In these photos, the Earth looks like nothing more than a tiny speck in the cosmos. This event marked the first time that the inhabitants of Earth had advance knowledge that they (and their planet) would be imaged from nearly a billion miles away (the spacecraft is currently in orbit around Saturn).
NASA asked the public to find Saturn in their part of the sky and smile for the camera. They also asked people to take photographs of themselves waving to Cassini. More than 20,000 people around the world participated. The world took to the internet using twitter, facebook, google+, instagram, flicker, and a host of other sites to send images of themselves to NASA. NASA then used these images to make a picture of a picture—an image of Earth as it looked on the day that Cassini took its photo of the world. In the upper left corner of the image posted at the bottom of this article, you can see an example of some of the photos that were used to compile this image.
To the left, you can see an enlarged example of some of the photos that were sent in. These photos range from people waving at Saturn to children smiling as they looked to the sky, from friends and families taking selfies to random strangers walking down the street. And there were a wide variety of other images that were sent in and used to compile the collage. Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, explains the rational that was behind the creation of this image: "While Earth is too small in the images Cassini obtained to distinguish any individual human beings, the mission has put together this collage so that we can celebrate all your waving hands, uplifted paws, smiling faces and artwork."
The images came from 40 countries and 30 U.S. states. And the result, if you ask me, is rather beautiful.