There’s a lot of talk in our modern space race about getting to Mars, so every once in a while it’s nice to see what we’d be leaving behind if we did eventually make it to the Red Planet.
Thankfully, images from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter can help us out with that. A new composite image released on Friday shows off Earth and its moon, taken when Mars was about 127 million miles away on Nov. 20.
The photograph is constructed from the best shot of Earth and the best shot of the moon from four sets of images, according to a post by Alfred McEwen, a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona who is the principal investigator for the HiRISE camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
It’s not exactly a telescopic version of what one would see if they were standing on Mars. Each image was separately processed prior to combining them so that the moon is bright enough to see, McEwen said. A post from NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory shared McEwen’s details.
The moon is much darker than Earth and would barely be visible at the same brightness scale as Earth. The combined view retains the correct sizes and positions of the two bodies relative to each other.
HiRISE takes images in three wavelength bands: infrared, red, and blue-green. These are displayed here as red, green, and blue, respectively. This is similar to Landsat images in which vegetation appears red. The reddish feature in the middle of the Earth image is Australia. Southeast Asia appears as the reddish area (due to vegetation) near the top; Antarctica is the bright blob at bottom-left. Other bright areas are clouds.
A previous image showing Earth and the moon was shared by HiRISE in 2007, when Earth was 88 million miles from Mars.