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Pale Blue Dot turns 25 this Valentines

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…

The iconic image that inspired the cosmologist Carl Sagan to pen these lines in his memorable book, ‘Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space’, turns 25 today. Sagan outlined the shared vision of humanity and the need to cooperate and believe in a common future for the posterity. The fact that the Earth appears nothing more than a tiny speck of dust and a luminous bundle, highlights the fragile insignificance of human existence and the futility of hubris.

On February 14, 1990, NASA’s Voyager 1 captured a portrait of the solar system — Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter, Venus and Earth — in which Earth appeared as a ‘pale blue dot’

Scattered light that forms a beam makes the Earth appear like a blue dot. Voyager 1 was 40 astronomical units from the sun when the image was clicked ( 1 astronomical = 93 million miles, or 150 million kilometers)

These images were the last captured by Voyager, launched in 1977, which is still in operation but cannot capture images.

Voyager 1, at a distance of 130 astronomical units, is the farthest human-made object from Earth, and it still regularly communicates with our planet. In August 2012, the spacecraft entered interstellar space – the space between the stars — and has been delivering data about this uncharted territory ever since. Its twin, Voyager 2, also launched in 1977, is also journeying toward interstellar space.

Voyager 1 is more than three times farther from Earth than it was on Valentine’s Day 25 years ago. Today, Earth would appear about 10 times dimmer from Voyager’s vantage point.

Twenty-five years ago, Voyager 1 looked back toward Earth and saw a ‘pale blue dot,’ ” an image that continues to inspire wonderment about the spot we call home,” says Ed Stone, project scientist for the Voyager mission.