Twenty years ago on February 14, NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft had sailed beyond the outermost planet in our solar system and turned its camera inward to snap a series of final images that would be its parting valentine to the string of planets it called home.
Mercury was too close to the sun to see, Mars showed only a thin crescent of sunlight, and Pluto was too dim, but Voyager was able to capture cameos of Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter, Earth and Venus from its unique vantage point. These images, later arranged in a large-scale mosaic, make up the only family portrait of our planets arrayed about the sun.
The Apollo missions in the 1960s and 70s had already altered our perspective of Earth by returning images of our home planet from the moon, but Voyager was providing a completely new perspective, said Ed Stone, Voyager project scientist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
“It captured the Earth as a speck of light in the vastness of the solar system, which is our local neighborhood in the Milky Way galaxy, in a universe replete with galaxies,” Stone said.