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Our World

 Our Pale Blue Dot

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us.

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Seen from about 6 billion kilometers, Earth appears as a tiny dot (the blueish-white speck approximately halfway down the brown band to the right) within the darkness of deep space. From Voyager 1 spacecraft.  Photo taken Feb. 14, 1990.

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, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

To view other images taken by NASA expeditions, visit NASA’s Planetary Photojournal web site at photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov
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Our sun. Image taken January 20, 2017 by NASA

“Carl Sagan (1934-1996) is perhaps best known for his award-winning PBS series Cosmos, in which he inspired a sense of wonder and excitement about his favorite subjects: the origins of life and the search for intelligent life in the universe.
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Carl Sagan 1934-1996 Credit and Copyright: 1994 by Michael Okoniewski & https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap961226.html

In addition to holding a 25-year professorship at Cornell University, Sagan was the author of numerous scientific papers, popular articles, and books . . .; he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1978.  In the 1950s Sagan began serving as a consultant and adviser to NASA.  . . .
‘Reflections on a Mote of Dust’ is an excerpt from a commencement address that Sagan delivered on May 11, 1996″ (106).
From: McQuade, Seeing and Writing 2, 2003.
Let us “preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”
Aloha, Renée

Barry’s Gleanings: Planets, Planets . . .

“Science-fiction writers have been dreaming up alien planets for decades . . . [S]cience had to wait until 1992 for proof that such planets did exist .. . Thanks to a combination of ground-based telescopes and planet-hunting satellites, particularly one called Kepler, which was launched in 2009, more than 3,500 such worlds are known.

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Image from: https://www.nasa.gov/press/2014/december/nasa-s-kepler-reborn-makes-first-exoplanet-find-of-new-mission

Unlike their depiction in fiction, reasonably few are much like Earth . .. And almost all are far, far away . . . .

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By April 2016, Kepler was about 100 million miles from Earth.

Image  from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kepler_(spacecraft)

From 2017, though, that will change.  In December a successor to Kepler, called TESS (for Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite), will be launched into orbit.  It is designed to survey the entire sky, looking for the sorts of exoplanets that are of most interest to humans – ones that are small (like Earth), rocky (like Earth), and relatively close by . . . . The new satellite should spot about 3,000 planets.

In August 2016, scientists announced the discovery of an Earth-like planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, which, at 4.25 light-years away, is the closest star to the Sun.

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Proxima-Centauri star – our closest star

Yuri Milner, a Russian billionaire and physicist . . . is already working with Stephen Hawking, a British theoretical physicist, on plans for a tiny, laser-propelled probe that could cover the distance in about 20 years”  (139).

From “Planets, planets everywhere” by Tim Cross in The Economist: The World in 2017. 

Our fiction and our scientific facts are changing  — and all most interesting.

Aloha, Barry (and Renée)

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