With your romantic dinner, Fifty Shades of Grey viewing and incessant cuddling on Valentine’s Day, you might have forgotten about something huge that happened Saturday. Feb. 14, 2015 marked the 25th anniversary of the Pale Blue Dot photo.
Something with the name “Pale Blue Dot” might not seem that significant, but it so is. On Feb. 14, 1990, the Voyager 1 spacecraft took the first images of the planets in our solar system from its location past Neptune. The “family portrait” includes images of Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter, Earth and Venus.
The term “Pale Blue Dot” comes from the 1994 book with the same name by the late astronomer Carl Sagan, who uses it to refer to the photo of Earth in this series of images. In the book, Sagan discussed the future of space travel and made a case for why it is essential for the survival of the human race. Sagan was a part of the Voyager imaging team, and it was actually his idea to turn the spacecraft toward Earth before it headed home, according to a press release from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
(Photo : NASA/JPL) ‘Pale Blue Dot’ photo of Earth taken on Feb. 14, 1990.
“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,” Sagan wrote about the image of Earth in Pale Blue Dot. “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.”
Even today with all of the advances we’ve made in space exploration, you have to admit that the Pale Blue Dot photo is still pretty breathtaking. To know that so many people and so much life is contained in this tiny speck in the universe is not only amazing but also satisfyingly humbling.
(Photo : NASA/JPL) A 60-second mosaic of the solar system ‘portrait.’
Obviously, some planets were left out of this “family portrait.” Mars, Mercury and dwarf planet Pluto either had too much or too little sunlight for Voyager 1 to capture their images.
These images were also the last to come from Voyager 1, according to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Mission specialists later turned the camera off so that the computer controlling it could be used for something else. Though the spacecraft is no longer able to take photos, it is still in operation, located 130 astronomical units away from Earth, the farthest human-made object from the planet ever. In fact, Voyager 1 still transmits data about interstellar space, the space between the stars, where it has been located since August 2012.