Monday, July 31, 2006

Feel Insignificant Yet?

Earth

Earthrise

Our Solar System to scale

Our Solar System to scale

Our Solar System to scale

Our Sun to scale

Our Sun to scale

Pale Blue Dot

We succeeded in taking that picture [from deep space], and, if you look at it, you see a dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every 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 in 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 the dot on scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of the dot. 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. It is up to us. It's been said that astronomy is a humbling, and I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, 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 and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.

- Reflections on a Mote of Dust - Carl Sagan

For those interested in astronomy, there are tons of sites out there where you can quench your thirst for knowledge. Among my favorites are NASA's Solar System Exploration, Nine Planets, NASA's World Book page and NASA's Visible Earth.

I've always had an interest in astronomy, but it took accompanying my son on a field trip to the BREC Highland Road Obervatory to spark it up again!

1 comment :

Self Muser said...

Haha! Everytime I see something like this, I actually do feel very tiny! Cool stuff :)