Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The "Pale Blue Dot Image" turned 25

by Don Duggan-Haas

The Pale Blue Dot image just turned 25. Here's a blurb from JPL on the anniversary, and here's a lovely video with Carl Sagan narrating by reading from his book of that title. The image is at the bottom of the post. 

And a quote from the book:
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. ... There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world.
Carl Sagan helped me to understand that humanity is a blip in time on a speck in space. Someone who understands that has a fundamentally different worldview from the worldviews held by most other folks, I'm pretty sure. Whether that difference is good or bad, I can’t say. But it is well grounded in robust scientific findings.

Because everyone I know and love is encapsulated in this blip of time and this speck in space, I treasure it deeply and want to preserve its richness, its diversity, and its life-supporting aspects. We are profoundly lucky to live right here and right now. We have a duty to preserve our luck for future generations, and right now, we are poised to fail at that task. This does not speak to the absence or presence of forces beyond nature, but it does speak to the awesomeness and wonder of nature. Understanding the science of the Earth system has deepened my sense of wonder and my sense of responsibility. This sense of wonder and responsibility begets a responsibility for sharing it. 

As a geoscience educator, I'm lucky to do what I do. 

Original Caption Released with Image:
These six narrow-angle color images were made from the first ever 'portrait' of the solar system taken by Voyager 1, which was more than 4 billion miles from Earth and about 32 degrees above the ecliptic. The spacecraft acquired a total of 60 frames for a mosaic of the solar system which shows six of the planets. Mercury is too close to the sun to be seen. Mars was not detectable by the Voyager cameras due to scattered sunlight in the optics, and Pluto was not included in the mosaic because of its small size and distance from the sun. These blown-up images, left to right and top to bottom are Venus, Earth, Jupiter, and Saturn, Uranus, Neptune. The background features in the images are artifacts resulting from the magnification. The images were taken through three color filters -- violet, blue and green -- and recombined to produce the color images. Jupiter and Saturn were resolved by the camera but Uranus and Neptune appear larger than they really are because of image smear due to spacecraft motion during the long (15 second) exposure times. Earth appears to be in a band of light because it coincidentally lies right in the center of the scattered light rays resulting from taking the image so close to the sun. Earth was a crescent only 0.12 pixels in size. Venus was 0.11 pixel in diameter. The planetary images were taken with the narrow-angle camera (1500 mm focal length).
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