Pale Blue Dot

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.

That’s how Carl (“Billions and billions”) Sagan started his reflections on the “pale blue dot” photo of Earth, taken thirty years ago by Voyager 1 from 6 billion km away.

I sometimes see a scene for which I can find no place to stand to take a picture. Voyager 1 offers me a unique place to stand, but what do I see?

There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits
than this distant image of our tiny world.

The folly of human conceits is not the first thing I see, nor do I suddenly see my problems in any kind of reasonable perspective. I live at the level of those human conceits, not at some cosmic distance from my life, from my self.

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.

OK, I can get behind that. And I can appreciate the range and depth of human experience that this pale blue dot has witnessed and continues to support.

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.

If you’d like to explore other perspectives on our place in the cosmos, check out these maps/photos/graphics.


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8 Responses to Pale Blue Dot

  1. Jim Robertson says:

    Those maps are something else (not the best term, but not sure how else to describe them). I have seen comparison of earth to Jupiter, Saturn and our sun, but not the others.

    Amazing, scary, soul searching….

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim – They’re beyond my comprehension except at a trivial level, but they do strike emotionally.

  2. Jim Taylor says:

    Ah, would that all scientists could write with the verve and clarity of Carl Sagan.
    Jim T

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim – Yup. (Not much verve there, but clear.)

    • Dave says:

      You focus is on a point in time, today. Now add that all of these bodies are moving at unbelievable velocity. Nothing is constant. So our solar system moves throughout the milky way galaxy. These movements affect our life on this blue dot. In addition the movement of the planets relative to each other and the sun also affect us and our climate. Ice ages and civilizations come and go and we are here to observe for just a brief moment. AND for me that observation period is at least 75% complete.
      To the young who worry about tomorrow I say fear not that old blue dot is a lot tougher than we care to admit. After some 12,000 years since the last ice age renewal seems closer than we might wish to imagine.
      Meanwhile back to the snowy world of now.

      • Isabel Gibson says:

        Dave – I can’t remember what book it was in which I read it – well, I remember the book but not the title (or the author, sigh) – but the author talked about the moving continents and how that had intersected with evolution of species. At one point he said we should see the world and life itself as a flame – beautiful and yet ever-changing – drawing attention to your point. We see only one small time slice of a vast temporal panorama.

  3. barbara says:

    And then we learned on a documentary about the polar ice masses, only 25% of the time in the last 500,000,000 years has there been ice there — 75% of the time they were forested. Change is the only constant, and I don’t mind it, “I just don’t want to be around when it happens,” as Monk said on his detective show. He was OCD.

    But to the point of the dot — I can hear Sagan’s voice and am sad that it and his grace are gone — and despair at our greed and laziness: humans don’t deserve such a wonderful place.

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