The first of these flybys was past Earth in 2005, and MESSENGER snapped images over a 24-hour period as it was departing. The result is a movie that shows what it’s like to depart our home planet:
Is that amazing or what? As MESSENGER departs, Earth completes a full rotation. When the camera started rolling on August 2nd, the spacecraft was 40,761 miles (65,598 kilometers) above South America. By the time it took its last image one day later, MESSENGER was 270,847 miles (435,885 kilometers) away from Earth – farther than the Moon’s orbit!
This is what it looks like to leave our home. We should do this more often.
Yesterday, March 20 was the vernal equinox. That is, the moment in Earth’s orbit around the Sun where both hemispheres are equally lit. Not only did we get to experience an even 12 hours of daylight / 12 hours of night here on the surface, but it looked pretty cool in space as well:
As you can see, Earth is positioned with respect to the Sun in such a way that both the northern and southern hemispheres are equally lit. The image is a tad misleading as the straight line of the equator is oriented “directly” toward the Sun on the right, giving the impression that Earth’s axis is perpendicular to the plane of its orbit. But remember, Earth is tilted 23 1/2 degrees from the plane of its orbit, like this:
Putting all of this together and we have a representation of Earth in its orbit around the Sun, keeping its tilt in the same alignment year-round:
So remember, Earth’s tilt is the reason for the season! Happy Spring!