NASA's Parker Solar Probe, mankind's first mission to 'touch' the Sun, has captured images of the Earth from about 27 million miles away, the US space agency said.
Parker captured a view of Earth on September 25, as it sped towards the first Venus gravity assist of the mission, NASA said in a statement. Earth is the bright, round object visible in the right side of the image, it said.
The image was captured by the WISPR (Wide-field Imager for Solar Probe) instrument, which is the only imaging instrument on board Parker Solar Probe. During science phases, WISPR sees structures within the Sun's atmosphere, the corona, before they pass over the spacecraft.
The two panels of WISPR's image come from the instrument's two telescopes, which point in slightly different directions and have different fields of view.
The inner telescope produced one image, while the outer telescope produced another, NASA said.
"Zooming in on Earth reveals a slight bulge on the right side: that is the Moon, just peeking out from behind Earth. At the time the image was taken, Parker Solar Probe was about 27 million miles from Earth," NASA researchers said.
One of the images shows a hemispherical shaped feature in the middle -- a lens flare, a common feature when imaging bright sources, which is caused by reflections within the lens system. In this case, the flare is due to the very bright Earthshine.
Close passes by Venus and Mercury may occasionally create similar patterns in the future, but these are limited cases and do not affect the science operations of the instrument, NASA said.
The images also show objects such as Pleiades, Betelgeuse and Bellatrix, which appear elongated because of reflections on the edge of the detector, according to the US space agency.
Parker Solar Probe was launched on August 12 on a seven-year long journey to unlock the mysteries of sun's fiery outer atmosphere and its effects on space weather.