If you look closely enough at the picture you might miss it; in fact you can hardly see what the Curiosity Rover captured in an image tweeted by NASA on Thursday. The image shows a small speck in the horizon with a pointer that identifies Earth, taken by the Curiosity rover all the way from Mars.
“Look Back in Wonder,” reads the accompanying text from the Curiosity Rover’s official Twitter feed. “My 1st picture of Earth from the surface of Mars.”
The Curiosity rover has been has been away from Earth for quite some time now on it’s new home in Mars, in fact the 1-ton, SUV-sized vehicle has not been there since November 26, 2011. It was set off aboard a NASA spacecraft from Cape Canaveral, Florida, nowhere it was last seen on Earth’s surface.
The journey was arduous, taking eight and a half months and 352 miles to get there, but the Curiosity rover landed safely on Mars with its 17 cameras and assortment of other scientific instruments all intact. After it’s safe arrival, it immediately began transmitting images back to earth, as one would hope with a $2.6 billion project.
But up until Thursday, none of these pictures actually showed Earth.
The one released by NASA on Thursday, which was “processed to remove effects of cosmic rays,” was taken about 80 minutes after Mars sunset with Curiosity’s “left eye camera”. It shows both Earth and another dot in the distance which NASA says is our moon.
NASA said that, “A human observer with normal vision, if standing on Mars, could easily see Earth and the moon as two distinct, bright ‘evening stars’”.
Curiosity has other purposes besides capturing images of Earth; it has also been busy exploring Mars as well. Since its landing on Gale Crater, Curiosity has helped scientists determine that an area known as Yellowknife Bay was habitable in ancient times.