Saturday, January 4, 2014

Earth as Perceptible Dot

In an image made 900 million miles away from us, the Earth and the Moon appear as two barely perceptible dots.

The rings of Saturn with the Earth and Earth's moon in the distant background
Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
"It is hard to believe while standing among 7 billion other people on this huge and diverse planet we call home that it is not the center of the universe in the same way that it is the center of our lives."
― Madeleine Fowler, Never before have we felt so small
The image of Saturn's rings with the Earth and Earth's moon in the distant background taken from the Cassini Spacecraft on the Solstice Mission makes our earthly habitat a tiny fish in an infinite pond.

Carl Sagan offers us perspective on what he called "that pale blue dot":
"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 in 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 the dot on scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of the dot. 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. It is up to us. It's been said that astronomy is a humbling, and I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, 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 and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known."