The power of a pale blue dot

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In 1990 the Voyager 1 had past Saturn completing its primary mission. It was then when Carl Sagan requested to flip the spacecraft to make a picture of the Earth. Of course it was too far to see anything but a dot. And that was precisely the reason the proposal had such an important symbolic value. No human device was ever that far and able to make a picture. There were many practical complains as the Sun, from that distance, is quite close. It could damage the camera. Indeed, the reflections of the Sun light on the spacecraft can be seen as straight lines, one of them crossing the Earth position.

This is the picture, from Wikipedia, with a circle around the Earth's position. Click to see it in full resolution and without the marker. Yes, that dot is the entire Earth, is here, is us. PaleBlueDot.jpg

Sometime after, Carl Sagan wrote a text inspired in the powerfull message that this image provides. Here it is. Look at the picture, think of the Voyager making the picture beyond Saturn, … and now, go on:

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of 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.

I’ve used several times this text to conclude my outreach talks about astronomy. Everytime I feel its power, and everytime I like it more and more. Today, I was talking about religion and the Universe (…) and I remember it. I could not resist to go back to it. This time on youtube:


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