Thursday, July 25, 2013

Modern Pale Blue Dot

Back in 2011 I wrote about my obsession with Carl Sagan's take on a picture taken of the Earth by the Voyager 1 spacecraft in 1990 as it was flying out of our solar system, called the Pale Blue Dot.  Carl wrote an entire book with it's title inspired by this picture, "a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam".  With the picture I posted an except from the book that uses the picture of the small dot of earth in the distance to show our small planet's relativity to the rest of the universe.  It is beautiful and humbling and perhaps one of my favorite literary quotes. 

Well now we have a new, enhanced picture of our Pale Blue Dot to marvel over.  NASA has published a new photograph taken on July 19, 2013, by a wide-angle camera on the Cassini spacecraft that shows a view of Earth from the dark side of Saturn.  Isn't it gorgeous with the silhouette planet and the rings in the foreground?  The Cassini spacecraft was built for a mission to Saturn, which has been incredibly successful - the small shot of Earth is a small bonus.  In the photo Earth is 898 million miles away.  Do you see that bright dot just under the rings and just above that glowing horizontal band?  That's Earth.  According to NASA, this is only the third time that Earth has ever been photographed from the outer solar system, one of the other times being the Voyager 1 shot that Sagan wrote about and the other being from Cassini back in 2006. 

While the picture of Earth above is definitely a nod to Carl Sagan, he is also being payed homage to in another way this week.  My other favorite Scientist/Astronomer, Neil deGrasse Tyson, is making a TV documentary series SEQUEL to Sagan's series COSMOS!!!  He is working with the same people Sagan collaborated with on his original series, and he's throwing Seth MacFarlane of Family Guy fame into the mix as well.  The preview played at Comic Con this past week and I could NOT be more excited!  Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey will air in 2014 on FOX and it looks phenomenal.  Check it out:

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