“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.” ~Carl Sagan

A confluence of three events occurred in recent weeks: two were global news and one was personal. The Charlie Hebdo tragedy and the unity march in Paris (reported in a wonderful post by Caitlin Kelly) captured the world’s attention, and I finally watched the television series “Cosmos,” which had me riveted for days. My personal accomplishment pales in comparison of course, but sometimes in life timing is exquisite.

“Cosmos” ends with the following words from astronomer Carl Sagan and the short video below. He so eloquently puts the aforementioned global events into perspective.


February 14, 1990, Carl Sagan

The spacecraft [Voyager 1] was a long way from home. I thought it might be a good idea, just after Saturn, to have [it] take one last glance homeward. From Saturn, the Earth would appear too small for Voyager to make out any detail. Our planet would be just a point of light—a lonely pixel, hardly distinguishable from the many other points of light Voyager would see: nearby planets, far-off suns. But precisely because of the obscurity of our world thusly revealed, such a picture might be worth having.

It had been well understood by the scientists and philosophers of classical antiquity that the Earth was a mere point in a vast, encompassing cosmos, but no one had ever seen it as such. Here was our first chance, and perhaps also our last, for decades to come.

So here they are: a mosaic of squares laid down on top of the planets and a background smattering of more distant stars. Because of the reflection of sunlight off the spacecraft, the Earth seems to be sitting in a beam of light as if there was some special significance to this small world, but it’s just an accident of geometry and optics.

Pale Blue Dot

Earth as seen from Voyager 1, near Saturn


There is no sign of humans in this picture. Not our reworking of the Earth’s surface, not our machines, not ourselves. From this vantage point our obsession with nationalism is nowhere in evidence. We are too small. On the scale of worlds, humans are inconsequential—a thin film of life on a solitary lump of rock and metal.

Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us.


I’ll let the video (3 min.) take over from here.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XH7ZRF6zNoc?rel=0&w=560&h=315]

Have a great weekend, everyone! 

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