I would not be surprised if you look at this photograph and think that it has not properly loaded yet OR where is the subject of photograph? OR what is it about? OR I don’t see anything except a few bands of mild colors. What’s so special about this mundane looking blank photograph?
Well, if any of these questions came to your mind -it’s all common –most people think likewise! But let me tell you that the photograph is exactly what it looks like. The subject of the photograph is also visible in it; but you will have to press your eyes a bit to find it out:
This photograph is called the Pale Blue Dot because the subject of this photo is actually a tiny pale blue color dot. Look for a blueish-white speck approximately halfway down the brown band to the right. This speck is more prominent than the rest of the grainy dots in the picture. Could you find it?
So, what is it? Well, this is our dear planet Earth! The photograph was taken sometime between 14 February to 6 June 1990. NASA space probe Voyager 1 took this photograph from a distance of about 6.1 billion kilometers (to be more precise it is 6,054,558,968 kilometers) from earth. As I told you in a previous article Voyager 1 is the farthest man-made object from earth. Now it is on course of exiting our solar system. When the primary mission of Voyager 1 had accomplished and it began its journey to the outside of solar system —NASA rotated it towards earth on a request from the famed astronomer Carl Sagan. He had requested NASA to take a picture of earth from Voyager 1 because this picture would be able to show earth in comparison with the vastness of the surrounding space. However, it was not easy for Sagan to get NASA to turn Voyager 1 and take this picture! He had to campaign for many years to convince NASA for this.
This is the photograph of earth taken from the longest distance so far. It easily puts us in perspective of our place in the universe. How tiny we indeed are. Carl Sagan wrote about this photograph in his 1994 book titled Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space. In Sagan’s words:
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.
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.
In the following video, Carl Sagan is reading out the above text. Thanks to Anurag for pointing to this video.
For those who could not locate earth in the above photograph, let me guide you:
So, what do you think? Isn’t it a very very special photograph? Please comment and give your feedback as it helps me in writing better content for my readers. Thank you for reading and stay connected with my website as I will continue to bring stories on more iconic photographs for you.