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9-11=2001
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9-11=2001

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Happy Earth Day!

This is the "Pale Blue Dot" photograph of the
Earth taken by the Voyager 1 spacecraft on July 6, 1990. The Earth is the relatively
bright speck of light about halfway across the uppermost sunbeam. (shown here inside a
blue circle)
Earth, seen as a pale blue dot from Saturn. Image credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

We succeeded in taking that picture [from deep space], and, if you look at it, you see a dot. (shown here inside a blue circle) That's here. That's home. That's us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every 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 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.

Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, p. 6

A recent photo from the Cassini spacecraft shows the mighty planet Saturn, and if you look
very closely between its wing-like rings, a faint pinprick of light. That tiny dot is
Earth bustling with life as we know it. The image is the second ever taken of our world
from deep space. The first, captured by the Voyager spacecraft in 1990, stunned many
people, including the famous astronomer Carl Sagan who called our seemingly miniscule
planet a "pale blue dot" and "the only home we've ever known."
Earth, seen as a pale blue dot from Saturn. Image credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Happy Earth Day!

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