From a pale blue dot to distant frozen world
in Astronomy / Op-ed / Science on Astronomy, Science
A little over 25 years ago, on July 6th 1990, the Voyager I space probe turned around and snapped one last picture of planet Earth and the solar system it was about to leave behind. More than 6 billion kilometers from the sun planet earth was only a pale blue dot, barely a pixel large.
This is the “Pale Blue Dot” photograph of the Earth taken by the Voyager 1 spacecraft on July 6, 1990. The Earth is the relatively bright speck of light about halfway across the uppermost sunbeam.[/caption]
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 forager, 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. - Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot
Yet, today, at roughly the same distance from the sun, the New Horizons mission delivered the sharpest photo of Pluto at the far edge of the solar system. The picture shows details the size of less than a city block. Again this is a testament to human ingenuity and drive to explore, but once more emphasizes that we are only “a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam”. Humbling and rather amazing, if you think about it.