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Solar Orbiter delivers sparkling view of Venus, Earth and Mars

The ESA and NASA spacecraft captured an unusual view of its home planet looking glittery in space.

ESA and NASA's Solar Orbiter took the images of Venus, Earth, and Mars used in this GIF on Nov. 18, 2020.

ESA/NASA/NRL/Solar Orbiter/SolOHI

Here on Earth, we're using to looking up and spotting other planets in our solar system, but it's eye-opening when our mechanical emissaries peer back and see us among the stars.

Solar Orbiter launched in early 2020 on a mission to study the sun, but it's been doing some sightseeing in its spare time. The European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA's Solar Orbiter spacecraft captured a lovely scene late last year when it saw Venus, Earth and Mars against a backdrop of stars. 

The Venus, Earth and Mars trifecta came in November when the orbiter's Heliospheric Imager (SoloHI) camera spotted the planets while the spacecraft was heading for a Venus flyby. 

ESA just released the scene as a short video. Venus is the brightest planet off to the left of the image. Earth is in the middle and Mars is fainter and down in the lower right corner.

"Stars are visible in the background, appearing to move in Solar Orbiter's recording while the spacecraft travels around the sun," ESA said in a statement on Tuesday.  

The Solar Orbiter portrait of Earth and friends fits in nicely with a history of views from elsewhere in the solar system. For comparison, you can see what Earth looks like from Mars and what it looked like to NASA's Voyager 1 back in 1990. It helps put our place in the universe into perspective.

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