Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Too Bad Joe Campbell Never Got to See This

Joseph Campbell saw the first photo taken by Apollo 8 astronauts of the earth in space (Earthrise) as an image of a newly-emerging mythology. Here is a photo that could only have been taken from much further away, Mars. NASA released an image of the earth and the moon in one picture, as seen from Mars. It was taken by the HiRISE Instrument on October 3rd, 2007.

This is an image of Earth and the Moon, acquired at 5:20 a.m. MST on 3 October 2007, at a range of 142 million kilometers, which gives the HiRISE image a scale of 142 km/pixel and an Earth diameter of about 90 pixels and a Moon diameter of 24 pixels. The phase angle is 98 degrees, which means that less than half of the disks of the Earth and Moon have direct illumination. We could image Earth/Moon at full disk illumination only when they are on the opposite side of the sun from Mars, but then the range would be much greater and the image would show less detail.

On the Earth image we can make out the west coast outline of South America at lower right, although the clouds are the dominant features. These clouds are so bright, compared with the Moon, that they are saturated in the HiRISE images. In fact, the RED-filter image was almost completely saturated, the blue-green image had significant saturation, and the brightest clouds were saturated in the IR image. This color image required a fair amount of processing to make a nice-looking release.

Beautiful!

2 comments:

Kym said...

Hi Chris, a text from your past!

This picture just blew me away (Earth an the moon from the Mars Orbiter). I had it as my work desktop for the longest time (now I have one of the Mars Rovers saying "Whew!").

But when I saw that picture of earth and the moon together yet distant, told me that we have so much more to learn about ourselves and our place in the big scheme of things, and even how we think and view of ourselves can be radically changed by one photograph.

This is not as archetype changing as the big blue marble picture from the Apollo days (the death knell of the Flat Earth Society and the total global realization of Gaia-Earth as its own life-form), but it is very much like looking in a mirror after a long stretch of time. It is when reality and our how we think we look collide to shock us into raising our consciousness a tad bit more.

Chris said...

We are used to images of the Earth from a space vantage, aren't we? But this is different. This picture blew me away, too. It's definitely not the same as seeing the CGI version from ST:TNG.

Mars is the planet of imagination it seems. Growing up reading science fiction (a lot of space operas!) it seemed as though Mars was the center of a lot of fiction available to me in the library -- from Burroughs Barsoom stories, Bradbury's "Dark They Were and Golden Eyed" and "Martian Chronicles", to Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy, it seemed as though everyone was going to Mars.

Finally, we are too.