Earth as 'Pale Blue Dot'

NASA image acquired February 14, 1990


On September 5, 1977, NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, aboard a Titan-Centaur rocket. Thirty-five years later, the planetary probe is now an interstellar traveler, having traveled farther from Earth than any manmade object in history. As of 21:00 Universal Time on September 4, 2012, Voyager 1 was 18.21 billion kilometers (11.31 billion miles) from home, or 121 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun. Light takes 33 hours and 44 minutes to travel the distance from the Sun to Voyager 1 and back.


This image is often referred to as “the Pale Blue Dot” image and was acquired on February 14, 1990, when the spacecraft was 6.4 billion kilometers (4 billion miles) from Earth and 32 degrees above the ecliptic plane. Earth is a mere point of light, just 0.12 pixels (picture elements) in size when viewed from that distance. The fuzzy light in the images is scattered sunlight because Earth was very close to the Sun (from the perspective of Voyager). The image was part of a series of 60 images collected to make the first-ever mosaic portrait of our solar system.


Having long since passed its primary targets of Jupiter and Saturn, Voyager 1 has been cruising for decades toward the edge of the solar system. In fact, researchers have analyzed data from the probe’s particle detectors, cosmic ray detectors, and magnetometer and found evidence that they have passed the termination shock and into the heliosheath—the outer edge of influence for solar wind plasma and energy from our Sun. The probe is now in an area similar to the windless “doldrums” found in tropical seas on Earth. The solar wind has calmed, the magnetic field has piled up due to pressure from outside the solar system, and high-energy particles appear to be leaking out into interstellar space. The Voyager science team expects the spacecraft itself to pass out into that space sometime in the next year or so.

“Voyager tells us now that we're in a stagnation region in the outermost layer of the bubble around our solar system,” said Ed Stone, Voyager project scientist at the California Institute of Technology, at a December 2011 press conference. “Voyager is showing that what is outside is pushing back. We shouldn't have long to wait to find out what the space between stars is really like.”


To read more about this image go to:


NASA JPL Planetary Photojournal images PIA01967 and PIA00452. Caption by Mike Carlowicz.

Instrument: Voyager


Credit: NASA Earth Observatory


NASA image use policy.


NASA Goddard Space Flight Center enables NASA’s mission through four scientific endeavors: Earth Science, Heliophysics, Solar System Exploration, and Astrophysics. Goddard plays a leading role in NASA’s accomplishments by contributing compelling scientific knowledge to advance the Agency’s mission.


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M. Zhu, bswise and 95 more people faved this
  • Derek_Custer 3y

    This puts a lot of things in perspective.
  • Parveen Singh 3y

    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.
    —Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, 1997 reprint, pp. xv–xvi
  • Mark 3y

    WOW !
  • Mike Beauregard PRO 3y

    horton hears a who
    -- doctor suess
  • Thomas Winkelmann 3y

  • ArlindoCarvalho 3y

  • Nisar Ahmad4 3y

    looking this dot it was amazing and i think this planet is very important for all of us to realize our responsibility for every human beings and every living and non living things. we should love with each other whatever our religion nationality and color is,when look in the history of human being a lot of blood have been wasted only in the name of religion nationality and for the looting of natural resources. it was nothing but stupid action we are like a atomic particle in the universe. i think it is a intelligent design and this design changes time to time so we should understand this and live with peace and love with each other.
    Nisar Ahmad
  • peter3292004 3y

    We often measure the universe in light years. This image was taken by a camera less than half a light day from us. We are very very tiny BUT it is the only home we have. Please take care of it for our future generations
  • Mubeen Mughal (THIRDEYE105) PRO 3y

    Parveen, thank you for sharing that info. from Carl Sagan, and also Nisar Ahmad for highlighting that we are mere particles - but with colossal egos.

    In order to attempt to know (or to think) about where we are going, we need to attempt to know (or to think) about where we came from. And there are many speculations about that, and those speculations themselves, are not absolute but do indeed change (evolve) over time. Both Belief and Science is ever evolving (even though the Scientists may like to believe otherwise).

    One such is the Vedic take on things (Cosmogony - the Origin of origins):

    1. "Why is there anything? It is worth noting that even the earliest Vedas display considerable skepticism as to whether such ultimate questions are answerable at all. 'Whence this creation has arisen - perhaps formed itself, or perhaps it did not - the one who looks down on it, in the highest heaven, only he knows - or perhaps he does not know". The early Vedas also raise the question of what the universe was like before creation. is the world itself an illusion? Perhaps it is 'not even nothing'. "

    From: "A Passion for Wisdom - A very Brief history of Philosophy" by Robert C. Solomon and Kathleen M. Higgins. Part I, Chapter 2, Page 11.

    2. " Who can say how creation happened? That One...
    'Then even nothingness was not, nor existence.
    There was no air then , nor the heavens beyond it.
    What covered it? Where was it? In whose keeping?
    Was there then a cosmic water, in depths unfathomed?

    Then there were neither death nor immortality,
    nor was there then the torch of night and day.
    The One breathed windlessly and self-sustaining.
    There was that One then, and there was no other .

    At first there was only darkness wrapped in darkness.
    All this was only un-illuminated water.

    That One which came to be, enclosed in nothing,
    arose at last , born of the power of heat.

    In the beginning desire descended on it -
    that was the primal seed, born of the mind.
    The sages who have searched their hearts with wisdom
    know that which is, is kin to that which is not.

    ...But after all, who knows, and who can say
    whence it all came, and how creation happened?
    The gods themselves are later than creation,
    so who knows truly whence it has arisen?

    Whence all creation had its origin,
    he, whether he fashioned it, or whether he did not,
    he, who surveys it all from the highest heaven,
    he knows - or maybe even he does not know."

    From: "The World's Wisdom - Sacred Texts of the World's Religions" by Phillip Novak. Chapter One - Hinduism - The Early Vedas pages 6-7.

    It certainly is something to think about: "Who can save us from ourselves?"

    And then again, even IF (imagine the odds against that: An abundant supply of water, and oxygen, and food that has taken billions of years to evolve to the stage where it is edible for us, a balanced eco-system teeming with life and varied species - the odds truly are against that) we are able go somewhere else, "Will we have changed"?

    Or will we just go elsewhere with the same pots and pans and beliefs of the past, as James A. Michener has mentioned, somewhere, in a couple of his novels, of which "Space" might be one.

    But in the meanwhile, we can only enjoy Bob Marley's :
    "Sun is shining, the weather is sweet
    Make you want to move your dancing feet".

    and not worry about the extinction of the 'other' species, as long as we alone are safe and sound.
  • Ninac26 1y

    a lot of people are not aware of this, but this is one of the most impressive, significant and beautiful pictures we have ever taken... just makes you stop and think...
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