Saturday, February 12, 2011

Pale Blue Dot

The Pale Blue Dot-21st Anniversary
(the dot in the small box is Earth, seen through the ring of Saturn, by the voyager spacecraft, on February 14, 1990)

It was twenty one years ago that the great astronomer and American Icon, Carl Sagan, made a suggestion to his friends at NASA. The Voyager spacecraft was in a position that would make for a rare opportunity. From the suggestion, they took a photo. Voyager took a photo. It showed our home Earth, in a way that nothing ever had. Carl called it 'The Pale Blue Dot'.

 The idea was to show us in a real way. We are the most special bunch we have ever known. We are the best we have seen. It was in this spirit that we needed to see ourselves in perspective. To see ourselves through the ring of a much larger world. Tosee that we are, sometimes, in some ways, so delicate and fragile, and small. The fact of being able to see ourselves, as we are, is our greatness.

The only other photo I know of that has ever matched The Pale Blue Dot in its impact was the first one from space that captured the whole planet, alone in space, for the first time.
I looked around for a while, for this copy of the Pale Blue Dot, owned by us all. In one location, I found a hundred copies of this photo. These copies were all slightly different from this original, and so they must have all reflected someone's desire to take credit for the photo. Maybe they made a buck from it. Maybe they made a poster.Maybe they hoped someone would think they had taken a jaunt to the rings of Saturn, from which spot they could get a really cool picture of Earth as a pale blue dot, barely showing through the rings. Maybe they just wanted to express their own art. I am sure this is the most likely, although the one about having been to Saturn was funnier.
Oh well, thank you again Carl, for your vision, your wisdom. Happy twenty-first anniversary for another great, original idea.

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