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Pale blue dot of emotions

11 December 2011

From time to time, I browse, driven by curiosity, through questions and answers on Quora. Today I wondered which was the most viewed question and it resulted to be:

What is the most epic photo ever taken ?

The most voted answer is the Pale Blue Dot. A tiny dot in the middle of nowhere… I found it so beautiful, I couldn’t retain from sharing:

Pale Blue Dot

It is Earth from 6 billion kilometers away, as seen from the edge of our solar system, taken by the spacecraft Voyager 1 in 1990, 13 years after NASA launched it. To give an idea of the distance, it takes light (thus any type of communication or data) about 5 hours and a half to reach the spacecraft, while our moon is reached in just 1 second from an hypothetical Earth light beam.

The brilliant idea to point the camera backwards and take the picture from the edge of humanity is from Carl Sagan, who wrote these inspiring words:

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Look again at that dot. That’s here, that’s home, that’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forage, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturing, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.



From → photography

  1. I blogged about this on what would have been Carl Sagan’s birthday. Such a perspective changing image, and such beautiful words to go with it.

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