Pale Blue Dot, Reversed
New analysis of data from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory confirms that Voyager 1 has entered interstellar space (which is not the same as leaving the solar system, incidentally). It is now in a region outside our sun’s plasma bubble and solar wind. It probably reached this point beginning in August 2012, according to NASA scientists, who had trouble determining the exact boundary because, well, it’s the first time we’ve experienced such a thing and how were they supposed to know for sure?
In February 2013, the VLBA, one of NASA’s radio telescopes used to keep tabs on the little traveler, captured this image of Voyager 1’s radio signature, a pale blue speck calling home from 18 billion kilometers away.
The transmitter on Voyager is a meager 22 watts, about the same energy as your refrigerator light bulb. But that’s plenty bright for radio telescopes, who are used to seeing weak long-wavelength signals from the depths of space.
While I suppose there’s no reason beyond aesthetics that it has to be colored blue, because the radio signal is well outside the visible range, it’s a poignant look at mankind’s most distant influence, as it drifts beyond the crucible of our creation and into the great who knows what.
Pale blue dots have become our most potent reminder of just how far we can reach.
Space Selfies, Enhanced
NASA and JPL have just released these enhanced versions of last week’s spacey self-portraits as captured from Cassini (orbiting Saturn) and MESSENGER (orbiting Mercury). The raw image (here) from Cassini was spectacular on its own, but these edited composites are even better.
Cassini took advantage of a serendipitous view of its home, and with the ringed planet in position to eclipse the sun it captured the top and bottom images. The wide-angle shot (top) puts our small size in perspective next to the gas giant, and the narrow-angle image (bottom) sees us glowing a brilliant blue next to our dust-gray moon.
MESSENGER, whose own Earth portrait is seen in the center photo, also had a view of home on Friday, capturing the celestial pair from its slightly closer vantage point.
Several people have wondered if Cassini actually captured everyone waving since it takes light over an hour to travel between the two planets. The JPL folks assured me that they took this into account, and the shutter didn’t open until 80 minutes after you waved to the sky!
Of course, chances are that Cassini didn’t actually see any light reflected from your waving hand. This guy calculated that of any photon leaving Earth at that moment, there’s only a one in 300 trillion chance that Cassini captured it. Sorry!! ;-)
NASA Spacecraft Are Taking Your Picture TODAY!
Head outside and look up at the sky at 2:27 PDT (21:27 UTC) to wave at the Cassini spacecraft as it captures a view of its home planet from orbit around Saturn. That’s in like 20 minutes as I write this post, so seriously, hurry.
If you miss it, or you’re afraid of not being on the correct side of Earth, fear not. NASA realized that the MESSENGER spacecraft around Mercury will also be in position to capture Earth this weekend. It will be doing so tomorrow, July 20 at 4:49 a.m., 5:38 a.m. and 6:41 a.m. PDT (11:49, 12:38, and 13:41 UTC).
I’ll be sure to share these new versions of the iconic Pale Blue Dot image as soon as they are made available. Until then, here’s a good approximation of what it will look like … Earth and the moon from MESSENGER in 2010:
Happy Earth Day, everyone. Take care of it, it’s the only one we’ve got (at least until Rose and The Doctor introduce us to New Earth in a few billion years).
It’s always a good time to celebrate how wonderful our planet is, but this day especially. And there’s no better tribute than this animated adaptation of Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot by Ehdubya, right?
And because I love you guys, here’s another animated “Pale Blue Dot”, from ORDER animation:
Your weekend moment of zen, from the ORDER animation studio. There are few passages more iconic and everlasting than Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot. After a hundred times, it still makes me smile.
Here’s a previous animated version of Pale Blue Dot, and be sure to check out Sagan’s words set to some beautiful landscapes. Finally, don’t forget to marvel at the original photo from Voyager that started it all.
To Celebrate: An Animated Adaptation of Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot
Thirty-five years ago today, Voyager 1 was launched into space, carrying the computing power of a fancy calculator watch, an 8-track player, and a gold record that tells the story of our planet and race. Today, she is over 18 billion kilometers away from Earth, in the midst of leaving our Solar System and entering interstellar space.
Celebrate with this animated version of Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot, by Adam Winnik, based on Voyager 1’s photo of the same name:
As you peer into this image, to see us twinkling in only a handful of azure pixels, take note of our place in this great expanse: A fragile home, filled with curious apes, the only life form that we know of capable of building ships that can sail distant cosmic seas, and from that vantage point, look back upon themselves.
(via Brain Pickings)
Pale Blue Southwest
"… how humble our beginnings, how many rivers we had to cross to find our way."
Your Friday moment of Zen, timelapse images of the American Southwest set to Carl Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot”. There’s no bad time to remember these words, our place on Earth, and our place in the universe.