Want to pose for a photo? Don't worry if you don't look your best, since the camera is more than one billion kilometres away.

Late Friday afternoon, NASA's Cassini spacecraft will gather images of Saturn with Earth visible in the background.


A simulation image shows where North America and part of the Atlantic Ocean are expected to be illuminated when NASA's Cassini spacecraft takes a snapshot of Earth on July 19, 2013. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Given the distance — 1.44 billion kilometres or nearly 10 times the distance from Earth to the Sun — Earth will be just 1.5 pixels wide and the illuminated section will be even smaller. But since it includes Canada and the U.S., NASA is encouraging North Americans to wave hello to Saturn.

The space agency is engaged in a social media campaign called Wave at Saturn, urging people to send in photos of themselves greeting the planet during the 15-minute Cassini photoshoot, which runs from 5:27 to 5:42 p.m. ET.

Cassini has been orbiting Saturn since 2004, studying the planet's atmosphere, rings and moons and has snapped more than 210,000 photos, but it typically can't shoot images facing toward Earth because that means exposure to the sun's blinding rays.

On Friday, Saturn will be perfectly placed between the Sun and Cassini, allowing for a back-lit, natural-colour image.

The imaging process is part of a larger effort to study Saturn's rings and to search for moons around Mercury, approximately 1.3 billion kilometres away.

Scientists say the snapshots of Earth are part of a bigger effort to study Saturn's shimmering rings and search for moons around Mercury.


This simulated view from NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows the expected positions and relative size of Saturn and Earth on July 19, 2013, around the time Cassini will take Earth's picture. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)


  • A previous version of this story said the Cassini photo shoot was from 2:27 a.m. ET until 2:42 a.m.. In fact, it's from 5:27 p.m. ET to 5:42 p.m. ET.
    Jul 18, 2013 7:07 PM ET