Wednesday, January 1, 2014


What's that? The Northern Lights? Nope.

It's obviously the night sky... and it is. With a single pale dot. You can see it if you look closely. It's roughly halfway down the ray of sunlight on the right.

It's not much. In our era of 10 megapixel cameras the dot is tiny. It's only 0.12 pixels, in fact.

And... that's us. That miniscule dot is planet Earth, seen from 3.7 billion miles (6 billion kilometers) away. Voyager 1 took the picture in 1990, looking backwards during its ongoing journey out of our solar system.

"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... 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."

- Carl Sagan.


bluetoothbuddha said...

Some perspective, then, in the new year.

Have a great one, Dr G.

Heidi said...

I LOVE this. Thank you.

Ms. Donna said...


Have a great time w/ the family. Keep the vacuum away from the dogs.

That sounds like a plan for 2014.

Cato said...

One could also take up the notion that there's a whole lot of elbow room out there waiting for us to learn to make better use of it.

bobbie said...

Sagan always added the perfect human touch to his science ~

Anonymous said...

Rather profound. Have a great new year.

Mark p.s.2 said...

The Red Green Show
Red: (closing line of each Mid-Life Musings segment) Remember, I'm pulling for you. We're all in this together.

Anonymous said...

Obligatory XKCD comic:

Perspective said...

I remember seeing this on Sagan's "Cosmos" program, but even though I saw the picture and knew what it was... I still get chills. Talk about perspective.

Unknown said...

Nitpicking here, but anything visible can't be less than 1 pixel, since a pixel is the smallest addressable/changeable unit in a display (or a digital camera sensor).

Packer said...

Thanks for the explanation, I wasn't seeing it.

Why is it that guys who stare at the skies for weeks, months, years, a lifetime are considered geniuses. Yet the guy who invented intermittent windshield wipers gets no mention.

Anonymous said...

One of the first bedtime stories my husband read to our small sons was Sagan's Cosmos.

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