Some Needed Perspective: Our Pale Blue Dot

Sometimes we need to sit back and take a good look around us.

Milky Way over a lake (location unknown).

To see the vividness of what we are, where we are, of which stuff we are made, sometimes we need a fresh perspective.  When I was living in Portugal, in the small town of Bensafrim, I used to love looking up at the night sky.  There was so little ambient light there, that you grasp the  starscape so clearly it used to take my breath away.

I remember staring up at all the pale dots in the sky, questioning whether someone out there was looking back at our pale blue dot in the same wonderment.

Earthrise: From Apollo 8.

I used to imagine myself floating through space.  I zoomed past the moon, looking back toward the Earth, taking in the immensity of it.

The Mars Orbiter Camera of Mars Global Surveyor took this photo on 8 May 2003.

And then I would keep going.  I would make my way through the solar system, stopping by a few planets here and there.  But always, my eyes fixated on Earth–the place I call home.

The Earth, the Moon, Jupiter, Callisto, Ganymede, and Europa

And maybe I would stop at Mars…

Earth as seen from Mars.

Or I would just keep on going…

Earth as seen from Saturn (via Cassini)

…until I reached the point where Voyager 1 had taken that photo of us as a pale blue dot.

Image from Voyager 1

And when I finally came to rest at this point, the fact that we are so infinitesimal compared to the rest of the universe, I would recall Carl Sagan’s words (from The Shores of the Cosmic Ocean):

Some part of our being knows this is where we came from. We long to return. And we can. Because the cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star-stuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.

Cue my serenity.

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