Where In The Universe #79

It’s time once again for another Where In The Universe Challenge. Test your visual knowledge of the cosmos by naming where in the Universe this image was taken and give yourself extra points if you can name the spacecraft responsible for this picture. Post your guesses in the comments section, and check back on Thursday at this same post to find the answer. To make this challenge fun for everyone, please don’t include links or extensive explanations to the answer in your comments. Good luck!

UPDATE: The answer has now been posted below.

Also, if you have suggestions for a future WITU Challenge, email me.

Yes, this is us, the planet Earth as seen by Voyager 1 from 3.7 billion miles (6 billion kilometers) away. I’ll let Carl Sagan explain it: (from an address he gave in 1996 and the basis for his essay and book, “Pale Blue Dot.”)

“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.”

25 Replies to “Where In The Universe #79”

  1. Voyager 1 looking back at earth at a distance of 4 billion miles.

    Carl Sagan’s reference of the Pale Blue Dot.

  2. Pipped at the post, I was about to say the same. It is part of the panorama of images of the planets of the solar system as seen by one of the Voyagers in 1990 or 1991. It was the “the pale blue dot” as coined by Carl Sagan in describing Earth.
    As described at the time.

    14 Feb 1990: Voyager 1 took a look-back image at the solar system as a panoramic scan of the Sun and the planets from its vantage point. Earth, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune were included. Mars may be visible as a slim crescent close to the Sun. Mercury will be lost in the solar glare and Pluto is too small and far away to be imaged. It ‘sees’ the grouping in the constellation Eridanus. The images will be transmitted in late March. Image processing will take several weeks before they are released to the public.
    Voyager 1 is located at 40 AU, 32o above the ecliptic plane, 242o ecliptic longitude – it is the furthest from the Sun and is moving fastest of the 4 outbound spacecraft. The spacecraft is moving along a radial line approximately 5 to 10o left of the line, designating the ‘Apex of the Sun’s way’ – which defines the Sun’s trajectory through the local space of the galaxy. It is close to the star Vega in Lyra. As such it is thought that Voyager 1 will be the first to cross into interstellar space; the region where galactic fields predominate over the Sun’s. This region is thought to lie between 50 and 150AU from the Sun in the ‘up stream’ direction.

  3. They beat me to it. I’ll just say that is me, you, all of us, everything we know and have ever known. All on that little bitty clump of blue pixels from Voyager.

    Dang, that’s still such a great shot. Makes all my problems seem like nothing! 😛

  4. Nice tribute to the great man, Nancy.

    In fact, the image itself is a wonderful tribute to the great man. Sagan was a man who truly understood the ‘spiritual’ aspects of science (very much for lack of a better term), and that he campaigned so hard for this image to be taken, not for any inherent scientific value but for the pure awe that it would inspire, is testament to that indeed.

    It is a cruel twist of fate that he was taken from us so young – I can only imagine that, as David Attenborough has matured and reached his prime as a truly monumental populariser of science and nature, so would Carl Sagan have. If you look back on the quality of the docos that Attenborough was putting out back when Sagan’s Cosmos was released (which were already awesome), and then compare them to what he puts out now (bloody amazing), you can’t help but wonder what brilliant documentary series we have been deprived of due to Sagan’s passing. It is certainly a hole that has not come close to being filled – there hasn’t been a decent astronomy doco since Stephen Hawking’s universe (UK version) and The Planets.

  5. Rats, late again and this is an easy one. This is the pale blue dot — a place where billions and billions of two legged wogs cause all sorts of trouble.


  6. Our home. Or, in words of Walter Martinez, venezuelan writer & TV comentarist “nuestra frágil, contaminada y unica nave espacial…”.
    By Voyager 1, 1990.

  7. this one is too is. Its the pale blue dot. a idea by Carl Sagan. its funny because originally they didn’t want to do it but carl put his fist in their faces and said “turn Voyager around now!” its funny you posted this., i just started listening to the audio book read by carl himself.

  8. Spend a few minutes quietly looking at the photo and it’s clearly our planet. Don’t ya just love all the noise in that good old Voyager pic?

  9. Is it the “blue dot” or is it in fact the sun as taken by the Voyager? I believe it’s the Sun and not Earth. It just seems too bright and it doesn’t seem blue enough. As I recall, Earth showed up as only a couple pixels and it was much bluer.

  10. Uranus. Voyager 2. The “pale blue dot” is Earth. You can see Carl Sagan waving from his porch.

  11. “I believe our future depends powerfully on how well we understand this cosmos in which we float like a mote of dust in the morning sky”. Carl Sagan, as quoted in the “Glorious Dawn” remix.

  12. Carl’s reflection is reminiscent of a similar perspective I once heard on an old Animaniacs episode. Yakko sings about our place in a great big universe. I strongly suggest you search Yakko’s Universe tune on Google or on YouTube for a good laugh.

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