Curiosity takes first photo of Earth from Mars

NASA's Curiosity rover has captured a view of the planet it left more than two years ago - the first ever photo of the Earth from the surface of Mars.

Earth's moon also visible as twilight star

This view of the twilight sky and Martian horizon taken by NASA's Curiosity Mars rover includes Earth as the brightest point of light in the night sky. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/TAMU)

Sitting on the surface of Mars, NASA's Curiosity rover has captured a view of the planet it left more than two years ago.

On Earth, the planets Venus and Mercury occasionally appears in the morning and evening twilight. But on Mars, the Earth and its companion moon also appear in the twilight sky.

The images that form this picture were taken about 80 minutes after sunset during the rover's 529th Martian day (sol), on 31 January 2014.

At that time the distance between Earth and Mars was about 160 million kilometres.

This is the first time the Earth has been seen from the Martian surface. In 2004, the now defunct Mars rover Spirit captured an early morning view of our moon, 63 sols into its mission.

Last year, the Cassini spacecraft photographed the Earth as it travelled behind the ringed planet Saturn.

But possibly the most famous image of Earth from space — Pale Blue Dot — was captured by Voyager 1 in 1990 from a distance of 6 billion kilometres away. The Earth appeared in that image as a one-pixel dot.

Dune buggy

The Curiosity rover recently crossed a one-metre high sand dune in an area called Dingo Gap. Mission scientists were hesitant to cross the dune, but recent damage to the rover's wheels caused by the extremely rocky surface forced them to select this more forgiving route.

Before driving over the dune, the rover conducted a number of tests to make sure it would not sink or slip.

Curiosity is now awaiting a decision on where it will head next, as it continues its trek towards the lower slopes of Mount Sharp, a peak in the centre of the Gale Crater.

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