Pale Blue Dot

Pale Blue Dot

The Pale Blue Dot is a photograph of planet Earth taken by "Voyager 1" from a record distance, showing it against the vastness of space. It is also the title of a 1994 book by scientist and astronomer Carl Sagan. Both the idea for taking the distant photo, and the title came from Carl Sagan. In 2001, it was selected by as one of the top ten space science photos.cite web | first =Robert Roy | last =Britt | title= Experts Pick: Top 10 Space Science Photos | publisher= | url = | date = 25 September 2001]

The Growing PBD Meme

Prior to the 2006 Memorial Blogathon marking Carl Sagan's death a decade earlier, there was only one homage video to his "Pale Blue Dot" photo. It used narration from Sagan himself, taken from the audiobook of the same name. In the 18 months since the Carl Sagan Memorial Blogathon, over 75 distinct homage videos have arisen to give visuals to Sagan's reading about the photograph he fought to have taken. In all, over 200 videos are now available online. Most are available on YouTube.

An extended homage video ("Pale Blue Dot / Wanderers") created by Lang Kasranov uses the unredacted audiobook to provide the authoritative historic backstory to how the Pale Blue Dot photo came to be taken. A briefer homage by Pale Blue Films is less science oriented, but still offers opens with some historic context and had over a quarter-million YouTube viewings in it's first year and a half since release. A collaborative video homage primarily by Joshua Sellers was released by The Sagan Appreciation Society to mark the announcement of the NASA Carl Sagan Fellowships in Astrobiology. It remains one of the most highly-rated Pale Blue Dot homage on YouTube. The first-ever Pangea Day event opened with a simple homage to the Pale Blue Dot, adding to the growth of the meme. It was presented by scientist Carolyn Porco, who helped work out the exposure times on the original Voyager photo. In half a year the 20-minute segment on YouTube had over 1 Million viewings.

The photograph

On February 14, 1990, NASA commanded the "Voyager 1" spacecraft, having completed its primary mission, to turn around to photograph the planets of the Solar System.cite web
url =
title = "Pale Blue Dot"
publisher = The Planetary Society
accessdate = 2006-07-27
] One image "Voyager" returned was of Earth, showing up as a "pale blue dot" in the grainy photo.cite book
last = Sagan
title = Pale Blue Dot
chapter= Chapter 1. You Are Here
url =| year =
The quote is much copied elsewhere on the web.]

Sagan gives the distance as 3.7 billion miles in the book, while NASA website describes it as "more than 4 billion miles" (6.4 billion kilometres).

The picture was taken using a narrow-angle camera at 32° above the ecliptic, and created using blue, green, and violet filters.cite web | publisher= NASA | title = Solar System Portrait – Earth as 'Pale Blue Dot'| url= ] Narrow-angle cameras, as opposed to wide-angle cameras, are equipped to photograph specific details in an area of interest.cite web | publisher= NASA | title = SPACECRAFT - Cassini Orbiter Instruments - ISS | url= ] Earth takes up less than a single pixel — NASA says "only 0.12 pixel in size."

Sagan wrote "While almost everyone is taught that the Earth is a sphere with all of us somehow glued to it by gravity, the reality of our circumstance did not really begin to sink in until the famous frame-filling Apollo photograph of the whole Earth — the one taken by the Apollo 17 astronauts on the last journey of humans to the Moon." ["The Pale Blue Dot", Chapter 1, end of the fifth paragraph] In the spirit of that realization, Sagan pushed for Voyager to take a photo of the Earth from its vantage point on the edge of the solar system.

Voyager took similar pictures of Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, creating a portrait of the Solar System.cite journal | first = | last = | | title =| year = ] Mercury's proximity to the Sun prevented it from being photographed and Mars was not visible due to the effect of sunlight on the camera's optics. [cite web | publisher= NASA | title = Solar System Portrait – Views of 6 Planets| url=] NASA compiled 60 images produced into a mosaic, called Family Portrait.

In a commencement address delivered May 11, 1996, Sagan related his thoughts on the deeper meaning of the photograph: [cite web
url =
title = Reflections on a Mote of Dust
accessdate = 2007-04-07

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.

Al Gore's 2006 documentary film "An Inconvenient Truth" featured the "Pale Blue Dot" photo at the end. Gore used it in his slide show to underline the need to stop global warming,cite web
last = Gore | first = Al | authorlink = Al Gore
date = January 15, 2004
url =
title = Al Gore Speaks on Global Warming and the Environment
publisher =
accessdate = 2006-12-18
] paraphrasing Carl Sagan with the statement, "That's all we've got".

ee also

* Space and survival
* Earthrise
* The Blue Marble
* Family Portrait (Voyager)


* cite book
last = Sagan
first = Carl
authorlink = Carl Sagan
title = Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space
edition = 1st edition
year = 1994
publisher = Random House
location = New York
id = ISBN 0-679-43841-6

External links

* [ Sagan's rationale for human spaceflight] Article about Carl Sagan and "Pale Blue Dot"
* [ Spaceflight or Extinction: Carl Sagan] Excerpts from "Pale Blue Dot"
* [ A new picture of Earth taken through the rings of Saturn] by the Cassini spacecraft on September 15, 2006. [ Cassini's most popular photo.]
* [ Carolyn Porco's opening speech on Pangea Day] , May 10, 2008 Carolyn Porco discusses [ Cassini's image of Earth] and introduces a film based on Sagan's 'Pale Blue Dot' on Pangea Day
* [ We Are Here: The Pale Blue Dot] A short film on the Pale Blue Dot. Requires DivX plugin or [ direct link] .
* [ discuss Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot with other readers]
* [ Video homage to the Pale Blue Dot]

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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Pale Blue Dot (book) — Infobox Book name = Pale Blue Dot title orig = translator = image caption = author = Carl Sagan illustrator = cover artist = country = language = English series = subject = genre = publisher = release date = 1994 english release date = media type …   Wikipedia

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  • Blue Marble — Foto der Erde, aufgenommen von Apollo 17 Blue Marble (englisch für Blaue Murmel) ist der Name für ein bekanntes Foto der Erde, das die Besatzung von Apollo 17 im Jahr 1972 aus einer Entfernung von 45.000 km aufnahm. Das Bild wurde unter anderen… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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  • Un point bleu pale — Un point bleu pâle La Terre, petit point bleu pâle. Regardez encore ce petit point. C est ici. C est notre foyer. C est nous. Un point bleu pâle (Pale Blue Dot en anglais) est une célèbre photographie de la planète Terre prise par la sonde… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Un point bleu pâle — La Terre, petit point bleu pâle. « Regardez encore ce petit point. C est ici. C est notre foyer. C est nous. » Carl Sagan. Un point bleu pâle (Pale Blue Dot en anglais) est une célèbre photographie de la planète Terre prise par la sonde …   Wikipédia en Français

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