Yesterday’s post It’s all we have showing the famous Earthrise picture taken from Apollo 8 generated a lovely follow-up.
One of the comments was from Mike Turner who wrote,
It’s all we have and it’s so insignificant!
The Pale Blue Dot
Mike included a link to an entry on WikiPedia about the tiny, small dot of light in the universe that is Earth, shown in a photograph taken by spaceship Voyager 1 from the edge of the Solar System on February 14th, 1990. Here’s that photograph,
Can you see our planet home? Earth appears as a tiny dot (the blueish-white speck approximately halfway down the brown band to the right) within the darkness of deep space. In a 2001 article by Space.com, STScI‘s Ray Villard and JPL‘s Jurrie Van der Woude selected this photograph as one of the top ten space science images of all time.
Carl Sagan later wrote about his deep feelings about this photograph. That was almost 20 years ago and, as I reflected just a few days ago, human insanity still seems alive and well; it’s about time that the majority of us recognised the fragility and vulnerability of where we live.
Sagan’s words are reproduced here and should be read by every inhabitant of this planet.
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 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. [my italics, Ed]
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.
You may also wish to watch this video.
Thanks Mike for prompting this piece.