Eight years ago, NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft made a pass of the Earth on its way to Mercury. As it swept past our planet, it recorded a series of rearview images, giving us a stunning glimpse at what it looks like to depart our world forever.
Earth can be seen rotating in this time-lapse video, as it recedes into the distance. The sunlit half of Earth is so bright that background stars are not visible. The robotic MESSENGER spacecraft is now in orbit around Mercury and has recently concluded the first complete map of the surface. On occasion, MESSENGER has continued to peer back at its homeworld. MESSENGER is one of the few things created on the Earth that has left and will never return – at the end of its mission MESSENGER will be crashed into Mercury's surface.
The MESSENGER mission has revealed much about Mercury's chemical makeup, including evidence of organic molecules and water ice. Read more about the MESSENGER probe and its investigation of our solar system's smallest planet here.