Story of Famous and Meritorious Images of Our Solar System

İbrahim Zdemir

2 Haziran 2015
Story of Famous and Meritorious Images of Our Solar System

Pale Blue Dot, Earthrise, The Blue Marble, The Day the Earth Smiled, Family Portrait and more... Less than half a century, The Human Space Race is reached a meritorious place which no one could dream. From Sputnik to First Man on Moon, Mariner to Voyager Missions, Mars to Trans-Neptunian planets, humanity's horizon and knowledge about Universe and our Solar System has evolved in an unimaginable way.

Since Mid-19's (when Sputnik was launched and Gagarin become firs man in space), our research and activities in space have greatly increased. As humanity's curiosity about space and the universe increased, more probes have been sent and more planets are visited. As a result, hundreds of precious unmanned space missions were carried out.

Some of the missions that got out of these hundreds of and some prominent events in these missions have become milestones of humanity's space adventure. In this article, I wrote these prominent milestones that important, for the history of Humans from Earth.

Pale Blue Dot

Pale Blue Dot is a photograph of planet Earth taken on February 14, 1990, by the Voyager 1 space probe from a record distance of about 6 billion kilometers. In the photograph, Earth's apparent size is less than a pixel; the planet appears as a tiny dot against the vastness of space, among bands of sunlight reflected by the camera. Voyager 1, which had completed its primary mission and was leaving the Solar System, was commanded by NASA to turn its camera around and take one last photograph of Earth across a great expanse of space, at the request of astronomer and author Carl Sagan. The phrase "Pale Blue Dot" was coined by Sagan himself in his reflections on the photograph's significance, documented in his 1994 book of the same name.

Original photograph:


One, that reproduced with help of AI by NASA in 2020:



Earthrise is a photograph of Earth and some of the Moon's surface that was taken from lunar orbit by astronaut William Anders on December 24, 1968, during the Apollo 8 mission. Nature photographer Galen Rowell declared it "the most influential environmental photograph ever taken". Anders' color image had been preceded by a crude black-and-white 1966 raster image taken by the Lunar Orbiter 1 robotic probe, the first American spacecraft to orbit the Moon.

Frequently shared, popular photo:


Original photo, as seen by the crew of Apollo 8. Lunar north is up.


First Images of Earth From Space and First Images of Earth From Orbit

  • October 1946 | V-2: First image of Earth from outer space, taken by the V-2 No. 13 suborbital spaceflight.


  • 1959 | Explorer 6: First image of Earth from orbit, showing a sunlit area of the Central Pacific Ocean and its cloud cover.

The Blue Marble

The Blue Marble is an image of Earth taken on December 7, 1972, from a distance of about 29,000 kilometers (18,000 miles) from the planet's surface. It was taken by the crew of the Apollo 17 spacecraft on its way to the Moon, and is one of the most reproduced images in history. It mainly shows the Earth from the Mediterranean Sea to Antarctica. This was the first time the Apollo trajectory made it possible to photograph the south polar ice cap, despite the Southern Hemisphere being heavily covered in clouds. In addition to the Arabian Peninsula and Madagascar, almost the entire coastline of Africa is clearly visible. The Asian mainland is on the horizon.

The Blue Marble:


Original photo from which The Blue Marble was cropped. The photograph's original orientation had south pointed up.


The Day the Earth Smiled

The Day the Earth Smiled refers to July 19, 2013, the date on which the Cassini spacecraft turned to image Saturn, most of its visible ring system, and Earth, during an eclipse of the Sun. The spacecraft had done this twice before (in 2006 and 2012) in its previous nine years in orbit. The name is also used to refer to the activities associated with the event, as well as to the photographic mosaic created from it.

Earth can be seen as a blue dot underneath the rings of Saturn in this image:


Saturn in a fully processed composite of images taken by Cassini on July 19, 2013:


Family Portrait (Voyager)

The Family Portrait, or sometimes Portrait of the Planets, is an image of the Solar System acquired by Voyager 1 on February 14, 1990 from a distance of approximately 6 billion kilometers from Earth. It features individual frames of six planets and a partial background indicating their relative positions. The picture is a mosaic of 60 individual frames. The frames used to compose the image were the last photographs taken by either Voyager spacecraft (which continued to relay other telemetry afterward).

These frames were also the source of the famous Pale Blue Dot image of the Earth. Astronomer Carl Sagan, who was part of the Voyager imaging team, campaigned for many years to have the pictures taken.

Photograph, The Family Portrait:


Diagram of the Family Portrait showing the planets' orbits and the relative position of Voyager 1:


Space selfie

The first known space selfie (during an EVA - an earlier shot inside the capsule was taken on Gemini 10 by Michael Collins) was taken by Buzz Aldrin during the Gemini 12 mission:


Curiosity, which landed on Mars in 2012, was equipped with the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera. It can maneuver its robotic arm and turn the attached camera around to take its head shots. Discovery News described the maneuver as the way to take a truly authentic selfie and gave it the title King of Selfies in 2013. The first space selfie on another planet was taken by the Curiosity rover.


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