We live on a Pale Blue Dot

This is something I came across today in my nerdy astronomy reading but I think it is amazing. It has done me the world of good to read this, and no matter what you believe or feel at this moment in time, I think it would humble and amaze anyone.

The picture below is a photograph of planet Earth taken from a distance of about six billion kilometres by the Voyager 1 space probe. Just think about that for a second: six billion kilometres.

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If you are having trouble finding it, it is the tiny whiteish-blue dot in the brown band on the right.

Isn’t it amazing? That’s us. The photo is know as The Pale Blue Dot.

What I really think is great, however, is the late great Carl Sagan’s reflections on the photograph (he had requested that it be taken). Here is what he had to say about it:

“From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again 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.

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 posturings, 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.”

-Taken from Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space by Carl Sagan

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19 thoughts on “We live on a Pale Blue Dot

  1. KaleverA says:

    My brain hurts after trying to conceptualize 6 billion kilometers.
    Great post, all your posts are pretty great actually.

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