Our Solar System, captured by MESSENGER
published during a waning gibbous moon.

Images and Text: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

In 2010, the MESSENGER spacecraft captured this family portrait of our Solar System as seen from the inside looking out. Comprised of 34 WAC image positions with NAC insets, this image shows all of the planets except for Uranus and Neptune. Earth’s Moon and Jupiter’s Galilean satellites (Callisto, Ganymede, Europa, and Io) can be seen in the NAC image insets. Our Solar System’s perch on a spiral arm also afforded a beautiful view of a portion of the Milky Way Galaxy in the bottom center.

“Obtaining this portrait was a terrific feat by the MESSENGER team,” says MESSENGER Principal Investigator Sean Solomon, of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. “This snapshot of our neighborhood also reminds us that Earth is a member of a planetary family that was formed by common processes four and a half billion years ago.  Our spacecraft is soon to orbit the innermost member of the family, one that holds many new answers to how Earth-like planets are assembled and evolve.”