The Pale Blue Dot

palebluedot
Featured Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

In 1977, NASA launched two robotic probes as part of the Voyager Program to study the outer solar system. These probes investigated the planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Their primary mission completed in 1989 and was responsible for providing scientists back on Earth with some of the most detailed pictures and information available at the time.

The late Carl Sagan, an icon in astronomy and science communication, chaired the committee that was responsible for the Voyager Golden Records. These golden phonographs were included aboard both spacecraft, containing sounds and images representing the diversity of life and culture on Earth, and contained instructions for locating our planet in the case should any extraterrestrial life stumble upon the derelict spacecraft in the future.

In 1990, as the Voyager 1 space probe approached a distance of 6 billion kilometres, it turned around and focused its cameras on planet Earth at the behest of Carl Sagan. The photograph it took has become iconic; the Earth appears as nothing more than a pale blue dot lit up against the backdrop of the vast expanse of space. In many ways, this image of The Pale Blue Dot is as influential as, if not more than, the 1968 photo Earthrise.

This image became the inspiration behind Carl Sagan’s iconic speech, an excerpt from his book Pale Blue Dot. In 2011 Reid Gower began the Sagan Series, an open source video tribute to some of Carl Sagan’s greatest speeches, and The Pale Blue Dot was featured as the ultimate episode. Watch below to see it in its entirety. You can check out his Youtube channel  or the Sagan Series Facebook Page for more.

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