An Artist's Quest

The Blue Marble vs the Pale Blue Dot

I heard an old interview not long ago with Carl Sagan.  The interview was on the 20th anniversary of the most distant photo we have taken of the earth from space.  Carl Sagan dubbed it “The Pale Blue Dot”.  It is a photograph of the planet earth taken in 1990 by Voyager 1 from a record distance, showing it against the vastness of space.  By request of Carl Sagan, NASA commanded the Voyager 1 spacecraft, having completed its primary mission and now leaving the Solar System, to turn its camera around and to take one last photograph of Earth across the enormity of space.  This interview touched me and inspired me to search around the Internet and look at some amazing photos of space. Our first glimpse of ourselves from space was in 1946. A grainy black and white photo sent back from a camera riding on the back of a V-2 missile.  It wasn’t until the late 1960 that we saw the now iconic images of ourselves on “The Blue Marble” (this image was taken in 2001 by NASA’s Terra satellite).

This notion of us in the universe, riding along on this big and blue and beautiful planet looms large in our psyches (in mine at least).  And while the “Pale Blue Dot” photo was taken 20 years ago, it isn’t an image that I’ve mounted in my internal photo album, it is not the vison I have of our place in the universe.  That big “Blue Marble” is much more comforting, substantial, significant.  Can that be us on the distant pale blue dot? Think about it we’ll check in on Friday.

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3 responses

  1. Pat

    Horton hears a who ?

    November 8, 2010 at 4:26 pm

  2. Laura Thorpe

    Lisa, your juxtaposition of these two views of our home planet prompts me to think about how my perspective of my place in the galaxy alternates between the big blue marble and the pale blue dot. Sometimes my position in this world feels so sure, so vivid, so much about right here, in my corner of the planet, tending to my little universe of concerns and cares and joys — my big, solid, luminous blue marble that I can touch and hold onto. But then the marble slips and shifts and the broader universe of worries blurs my certitude. Do I tackle the inky oil that sullies the feathers and gills in the Gulf? Do I gather the mothers and fathers and rally for smaller class sizes and less standardized testing for my kids and yours and theirs? These problems and myriad others blur together, a haze of need, a foggy journey, a destination murky. How to straddle the big blue marble and the pale blue dot?

    November 9, 2010 at 2:42 am

  3. Jennifer

    I have been thinking about space quite a lot lately. I recently read a book called “Grandmothers Counsel the World: Women Elders Offer Their Vision for Our Planet.” In it, there was a line that noted that for many indigenous peoples, space exploration was not a good thing. I have been pondering the whys: the actual fact of littering space the same way we are littering earth; the penetration a mystery that is not for humans to know; leaving the place to which we should be present, tied, in love with. At the same time, the “big blue marble” photo presented an iconic symbol of our togetherness, the beauty of our place, at a pivotal point in human history. However, had we been living that lesson? Once again I am struck by the tensions in these contemplations

    November 9, 2010 at 5:55 pm

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