Skip to content →

The Pale Blue Dot

Whenever I see or hear news about some horrible things going on around the world, whether be about conflict among nations, or man-made disasters that befall mankind, or stupid things that we humans do that continually endanger our planet, I cannot help but recline on my chair and feel sad about it.

It’s times like these that I remember and reflect about the “Pale Blue Dot”.

The Pale Blue Dot is a photo of the Earth. It was taken on the 14th of February 1990.

What makes this photo so unique and important was the fact that it was taken millions and millions of miles away from Earth by Voyager 1, the very-first man-made object to ever venture outside of our Solar System.

As Voyager 1 was just about to go outside of our “plannetary neighborhood”, engineers turned it around, at the suggestion of Carl Sagan, to take one last look at Earth, its home, and take a picture.

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.

Carl Sagan, 1990

The resulting image is not just humbling but, well, a mind-opening one. It makes us realise, or at least me, that we are ever so small and whatever self-imposed importance we have is nothing but a delusion.

So whenever I hear or read news about the things I mentioned earlier, I cannot help but think and ask, “what the hell are we doing?”

The pale blue dot
That’s here. That’s home. That’s us.

Later on Carl Sagan wrote a book of the same title, inspired by the same image.

This excerpt from his book below is probably one of the most, if not THE most, important excerpts of all time. And if it were solely up to me, I would have every person on the planet read or listen to it.

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different.

Consider again 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.

Carl Sagan, “The Pale Blue Dot”, 1990

Published in Uncategorized