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Tribute to Carl Sagan: "Pale Blue Dot"

With the recent renewal of "Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey" (See Space.com, 2018) hosted by Neil Degrasse Tyson, we thought it was appropriate to pay tribute to the original host of this wonderful program: Carl Sagan.

What follows is a poignant quote from "Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space". It is perhaps more relevant now than ever before. It was largely inspired by the Pale Blue Dot photo of the Earth, taken from a distance of about 6 Billion kilometres by Voyager 1.

Please note: emphasis in the quote is ours.

Figure 1. Carl Sagan. Credit: JPL NASA 2011

Figure 2. Pale Blue Dot. Credit: NASA, 1990

“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 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. 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.
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.” (Sagan, 1997)

No truer words have ever been spoken.

The "Cosmos" programme will initially be released on Fox. Sagan's book, "Pale Blue Dot: a Vision of the Human Future in Space", is widely available, including The Book Depository: here.


NASA JP, 1990. "Solar System Portrait - Earth as a Pale Blue Dot". [Accessed 21.01.18] https://visibleearth.nasa.gov/view.php?id=52392

NASA JPL, 2011. "NASA Announces 2011 Carl Sagan Fellows". [Accessed 21.01.18] https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2011-099

Sagan, C. 1997. "Pale Blue Dot: a Vision of the Human Future in Space". Random House, New York.

Space.com, Cofield. C., 2018 "'Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey' TV Series Will Return in 2019". [Accessed 21.01.18] https://www.space.com/39386-cosmos-tv-series-gets-second-season.html

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