35 years ago: Our first family portrait of the Earth and Moon

Sep 19, 2012 by Jason Major, Universe Today
A crescent Earth and Moon as seen by Voyager 1 on September 18, 1977. Credit: NASA

Thirty-five years ago today, September 18, 1977, NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft turned its camera homeward just about two weeks after its launch, capturing the image above from a distance of 7.25 million miles (11.66 million km). It was the first time an image of its kind had ever been taken, showing the entire Earth and Moon together in a single frame, crescent-lit partners in space.

The view of shows eastern Asia, the western Pacific Ocean and part of the Arctic. Voyager 1 was actually positioned directly above Mt. Everest when the images were taken (the final was made from three separate images taken through color filters.)

The Moon was brightened in the original NASA images by a factor of three, simply because Earth is so much brighter that it would have been overexposed in the images were they set to expose for the Moon. (Also I extended the sides of the image a bit above to fit better within a square format.)

First View of Earth From Moon. On Aug. 23, 1966, the world received its first view of Earth taken by a spacecraft from the vicinity of the Moon. The photo was transmitted to Earth by the Lunar Orbiter I and received at the NASA tracking station at Robledo De Chavela near Madrid, Spain. The image was taken during the spacecraft’s 16th orbit. Credit: NASA

Previous images may have shown the Earth and Moon together, but they were taken from orbit around one or the other and as a result didn't have both worlds fully—and in color!—within a single frame like this one does. In fact, it was only 11 years earlier that the very first image of Earth from the Moon was taken, acquired by NASA's Lunar Orbiter I spacecraft on August 23, 1966.

It's amazing to think what was happening in the world when Voyager took that image:

  • was 4.23 billion (currently estimated to be 7.04 billion)
  • The Space Shuttle Enterprise made its first test flight from a 747
  • Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Saturday Night Fever were out in U.S. theaters
  • Charlie Chaplin and Elvis Presley died
  • U.S. federal debt was "only" $706 billion (now over $16 trillion!)
  • And, of course, both launched on their Grand Tour of the Solar System, ultimately becoming the most distant manmade objects in existence
See more world stats and events here.

Explore further: Innovative use of pressurant extends MESSENGER's mission, enables collection of new data

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Space image: Earth and its Moon as seen by Voyager 1

Aug 22, 2011

This picture of a crescent-shaped Earth and Moon -- the first of its kind ever taken by a spacecraft -- was recorded Sept. 18, 1977, by NASA's Voyager 2 when it was 7.25 million miles (11.66 million kilometers) ...

Voyager at 35: Break on through to the other side

Aug 21, 2012

(Phys.org) -- Thirty-five years ago today, NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft, the first Voyager spacecraft to launch, departed on a journey that would make it the only spacecraft to visit Uranus and Neptune and ...

Five things about NASA's Voyager mission

Apr 27, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Here are five facts about NASA's twin Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft, the longest continuously-operating spacecraft in deep space. The Voyagers were built by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in ...

Space image: The Moon's North pole

Sep 08, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- The Earth's moon has been an endless source of fascination for humanity for thousands of years. When at last Apollo 11 landed on the moon's surface in 1969, the crew found a desolate, lifeless ...

Recommended for you

Asteroids: Breaking up is hard to do

18 minutes ago

(Phys.org)—Hundreds of thousands of asteroids are known to orbit our Sun at distances ranging from near the Earth to beyond Saturn. The most widely known collection of asteroids, the "main belt," contains ...

The top 101 astronomical events to watch for in 2015

Dec 24, 2014

Now in its seventh year of compilation and the second year running on Universe Today, we're proud to feature our list of astronomical happenings for the coming year. Print it, bookmark it, hang it on your ...

NASA image: Frosty slopes on Mars

Dec 24, 2014

This image of an area on the surface of Mars, approximately 1.5 by 3 kilometers in size, shows frosted gullies on a south-facing slope within a crater.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

El_Nose
5 / 5 (1) Sep 19, 2012
look at all that ice in the Arctic --- see kids i told ya there was ice up there in my day.

kids born after 2030 will have always known that the NW passage does indeed exist.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.