Saturn Calls for Photographers

On 2013 July 19 the NASA’s Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn will turn towards Earth and, while the Sun is blocked by the giant planet, take a picture of Saturn, it’s rings, and the distant Earth and Moon in what has been called a Pale Blue Dot image. The first of this kind was the 1990 photograph by the Voyager 1 spacecraft from a record distance of about 6 billion kilometers from Earth. The Earth appeared as a tiny dot (less than a pixel) against the vastness of space.

Dubbed The Day the Earth Smiled, its a time to focus on Saturn with photography, share your telescope view with public, wave at Saturn with your friends and family, and other activities. TWAN partner organization, Astronomers Without Borders, is working with the Daimond Sky Productions and Carolyn Porco, leader of the Cassini imaging team, on outreach projects of The Day the Earth Smiled. Noted by Carolyn Porco “It will be a day to revel in the extraordinary achievements in the exploration of our solar system that have made such an interplanetary photo session possible. And it will be a day for all of us to smile and celebrate life on the Pale Blue Dot… I hope, at the appropriate time, regardless where or on which side of the planet you are go outside, gather together with friends and family, contemplate the utter isolation of our world in the never-ending blackness of space.”

Cassini’s cameras will acquire mosaic of images of Saturn’s ring system over the course of 4 hours on July 19. The Earth will be captured alongside the rings in a series of images taken between 21:27 to 21:42 Greenwich Time. At this time Saturn is visible in the evening sky from all across Africa and mainland Europe, except for central-northern Scandinavia because of daylight or bright twilight. In the Americas it’s still daylight at the Cassini’s imaging time and Saturn can be seen few hours later. In most of the Middle East and the rest of Asia while it will night-time Saturn has already set at this time and viewing should be done few hours earlier in the evening. Across the world Saturn is visible from the beginning of night (when it’s higher up) to sometime past midnight. The simulation below marks Saturn in the evening sky of July 19 (you can find it near to this position in the next few weeks. See more finder charts from NASA’s JPL to locate Saturn in your sky). Take part in the programs and celebrate The Day the Earth Smiled.

Photograph Saturn for a Great Mosaic. Submit widefield photos of Saturn appearing in the night sky above your local landscape; photos of people observing Saturn; photos of people with an image of Saturn in hand (having their portrait taken with the “star” of the show). TWAN will combine all the approved images to produce a mosaic of what the Cassini image is expected to look like when it is released (in September). The mosaic will be zoomable so viewers can zoom in and see the individual images from around the world.

Everyone at any age from around the world are invited to submit images. The diversity of locations, people, and compositions enrich the resulted mosaic. Telescopic images of Saturn are not the main goal of this project as they are beyond the capability of all but a tiny percentage of the world’s population. The submitted images shoudl be made anytime through 22 July. You can submit older photos if they were taken during 2013. More information on the program page. Submit photos here. For a diverse photo collection of Saturn in the Earth sky see The World at Night Saturn Gallery at

Observe Saturn with AWB. When the Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn takes its historic portrait of Earth on 19 July the world will be watching. Join Astronomers Without Borders in showing Saturn to as many people as possible. Check the July 19 events list or the world map
world map if you are looking for an event in your area to attend and if you are organizing an event for The Day the Earth Smiled register here.

Message to the Milky Way. If you are a photographer or a music composer this is your chance to transmit your peace of work to the universe; a message that might eventually arrive to intelligent inhabitants of others worlds in the galaxy; a work of art that describe our life and planet Earth along with other contents of this galactic message. The two connected contests are held in association with Cassini’s imaging of Earth on 2013 July 19. The winning entries will be Chosen in worldwide competitions sponsored by Diamond Sky Productions and guided by illustrious group of
advisors, will be included in a digitally encoded message that will be broadcast into the galaxy from the most powerful single radio telescope on Earth, the 305-meter Arecibo dish in Puerto Rico, on the anniversary of The Day The Earth Smiled. The images should be an original work, taken on July 19, 2013, that best visually illustrates what makes planet Earth unique in our solar system. The original piece of music should present the spirit
of The Day The Earth Smiled and puts to music that ancient human longing to understand the meaning of our own existence. See the
Message to the Milky Way page for more information.

– The World at Night Saturn gallery, featuring a unique collection of images from around the globe presenting planet Saturn in the starry sky of the Earth.
Saturn Mosaic Project on Astronomers Without Borders
– An Observing Guide to Saturn on Sky&Telescope website
Saturn in Your Kitchen and Backyard (classroom activities for educators)
– Read about this story on
– Look Up, Smile, and Wave … at Saturn on Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy
Read 7 Billion People And Trillions Of Creatures To Be Photographed Together On July 19, by Robert Krulwich, the National Public Radio


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