Remembering Carl Sagan on Earth Day
SPOTLIGHT, 27 Apr 2020
22 Apr 2020 – The excerpt below is from Carl Sagan’s book, Pale Blue Dot, and it was inspired by an image recorded by Voyager-1 on 14 Feb 1990. As the spacecraft was leaving the solar system for its no-return outer-space exploration trip, NASA technicians redirected the camera for a last photo of Planet Earth behind. Voyager was about 6.4 billion kilometers (4 billion miles) away when it captured this unique, historical, unflattering portrait of the world. Among light rays from the Sun, our Earth appears as a tiny, almost invisible point of light 0.12 pixel in size in the beam to the right of the frame. The landmark photo was by Sagan’s request.
“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.”
— Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994
Carl Edward Sagan (9 Nov 1934 – 20 Dec 1996) was an American astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, author, and science communicator in astronomy and other natural sciences. Wikipedia
Tags: Astronomy, Carl Sagan, Cosmology, Earth, Earth Day, Science, Space science, Universe
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 27 Apr 2020.
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