November 9 is not only the day we begin to ponder the implications of a Trump presidency. It’s also the birthday of the belated scientist and luminary Carl Sagan.
And nothing makes more clear the fact that we must come together after 18 months of divisive campaigning than Sagan’s “pale blue dot” view of Earth.
Photos of our Earth from hundreds, thousands, millions, or even billions of miles away not only help scientists understand how a habitable planet looks from afar, aiding the search to find more cozy worlds, but also remind us of a humbling, chilling, and inescapable truth: We live on a tiny, fragile rock that is hopelessly lost in the cosmic void.
Take a moment to ponder 25 of the most arresting images of Earth and the moon from space that humankind has ever captured.
We hope you find them as perspective-lending as we do.
A few rare satellites launched by humanity enjoy a full view of Earth from thousands or even a million miles away.
Taken by: Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) spacecraft
Date: April 9, 2015
NASA and NOAA created this composite image using photos taken by Suomi NPP, a weather satellite that orbits Earth 14 times a day. You can see the Joalane tropical cyclone in the Indian Ocean (top right).
Their unending gaze helps us monitor the health of our world while catching rare alignments of the sun, moon, and Earth.
Taken by: Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR)
Date: March 9, 2016
Orbiting from a million miles away, NASA’s DSCOVR satellite always views this sunlit half of our planet. This allowed it to take 13 images of the moon’s shadow as it raced across Earth during the total solar eclipse of 2016. Together they make up one of the most complete views ever of the event.
But it’s when we venture deeper into space that Earth comes into spellbinding focus.
Taken by: Rosetta
Date: November 12, 2009
To rendezvous with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2007 — which it will crash into on September 30, 2016 — the Rosetta spacecraft needed a speed boost with the help of Earth’s gravity. This photo it took of Earth shows the South Pole and Antarctica illuminated by the sun.
Our planet appears as a brilliant blue marble wrapped in a thin, nearly invisible veil of gas.
Taken by: Apollo 17’s crew
Date: December 7, 1972
The crew of the last crewed lunar mission, Apollo 17, took this “blue marble” photo of Earth — one of the most-reproduced images in history (though no one is certain which astronaut took it) — from 28,000 miles away on their trip to the moon. Africa is visible at the top left of the image, and Antarctica on the bottom.