That's Here, That's Home, That's Us!

Earth and The Moon as seen from Saturn. Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

Earth and The Moon as seen from Saturn. Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

This is the first raw image that has come back from the NASA Cassini spacecraft. This is the photo that was taken of Earth on Friday July 19, 2013. In this photo Earth is illuminated by sunlight with the Moon standing out brightly just below Earth.

This photo was taken by Cassini as part of a large mosaic photograph that Cassini is taking while having the Sun blocked by Saturn. This type of eclipse-like position offers Cassini a great opportunity to photograph Saturn's diffuse rings and check for changes over time. This image was acquired from a distance of around 898 miles from Earth. This was the first photograph ever taken of Earth from the outer solar system with prior public knowledge. This sparked a huge collaborative movement across the globe.

This is a photograph of all of us, of the only planet we know of that harbors life. This photo makes me think about how connected humanity is and how small and insignificant the priorities are that we place on boundaries, nations, and personal gain. This is our home and we all live here, together. This is a beautiful photograph of the most special place for all of us!

From Carl Sagan's book "The Pale Blue Dot":

“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 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. 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. 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.”

Scott MacNeill
Scott MacNeill
Entry Date:
Jul 21, 2013
Published Under:
Scott MacNeill's Columns
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