Am I the last one on earth to learn about the dot? I am feeling a little left out here folks, dot deprived actually. I came across the dot a few weeks ago, and while I thought it was interesting, I have found myself feeling somewhat consumed with this phenomenon. For those of you (if that is even possible) that might share in my dot deprivation, I pass on to you…my knowledge of the dot, “The Pale Blue Dot.”

The famous photograph was taken of the Earth by Voyager 1 in 1990 from 4 billion miles away. As it exited the solar system, the late astronomer, Carl Sagan, convinced NASA to have Voyager 1 turn its view back toward the sun and snap one last photo of our planet. Earth showed up as a pale blue dot, a single pixel in the grainy image. Sagan called this view of Earth the “Pale Blue Dot” Click on picture for larger image

Sagen spoke of that powerful symbol in a commencement address he gave in 1996, a few months before his death:

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, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, 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 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 this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, 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.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. 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.

Thank you Carl Sagen for “The Pale Blue Dot” for sharing the visual and the perspective of what otherwise would be inconceivable…for making me feel so dot worthy.