On February 14, 1990, after nearly 13 years of travel through the outer Solar System, NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft crossed the orbit of Pluto and turned its camera around, capturing photos of the planets as seen from that vast distance. It was a family portrait taken from over 4.4 billion kilometers away — the ultimate space Valentine.
Who says astronomy isn’t romantic?
“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… There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world.”
– Carl Sagan
It was the unique perspective above provided by Voyager 1 that inspired Carl Sagan to first coin the phrase “Pale Blue Dot” in reference to our planet. And it’s true… from the edges of the solar system Earth is just a pale blue dot in a black sky, a bright speck just like all the other planets. It’s a sobering and somewhat chilling image of our world… but also inspiring, as the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft are now the farthest human-made objects in existence — and getting farther every second. They still faithfully transmit data back to us even now, over 35 years since their launches, from 18.5 and 15.2 billion kilometers away.
The Voyagers sure know the value of a long-term relationship.