This is the farthest image from Earth and barely occupies a single pixel

At the end of the seventies, some probes were launched into space, Voyager 1 and 2Which will pass near Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, capture data and images, and then continue its journey forever away from Earth. This was the first time a human body had passed so close to the Frost Giants. Voyager 2 was the first and so far only probe to visit Uranus and Neptune We owe much of what we know about these planets to their observations. In addition, the Voyager 1 probe was the first to obtain detailed images of the planet Moons of Jupiter and TitanIt is the largest moon of Saturn and the only one with an atmosphere denser than Earth's.

NASA, Voyager 1 | Images of Jupiter and Saturn (top) and the moons Io and Titan (bottom) with the Voyager 1 probe itself in the center

In addition to all these achievements that would make any probe worthy of being recorded in the history of space probes, Voyager 1 was the first human body to reach space. Interstellar spaceVoyager 2 is the third probe, after Pioneer 10, that was supposed to leave the solar system years ago, although contact with it was lost and it was not possible to confirm this.

Kimgli, Wikimedia Commons | The paths of the five probes destined to leave the solar system

Precisely because they were designed to leave the solar system, these probes included some of them Gold plated brass sheets With the position of the Sun in relation to the pulsars closest to us and with sound and image recordings. Among the recordings there Greetings in 55 languagesAnd whale songs, and nature sounds, such as rain or animals in the forest, as well Musical pieces from many cultures. There are songs from African tribes, the Amazon, Australian aborigines, traditional Chinese, Mexican and Bulgarian music, as well as Western classical music, such as the first movement of Beethoven's Fifth, or modern songs such as Johnny B. Goode. By Chuck Berry.

NASA | The Golden Record is on board both Voyager probes

But one of the results of the Voyager 1 mission that had and continues to have perhaps the greatest cultural impact was the photo it took of Earth. By a strange coincidence, the photo was taken February 14 The year is 1990. This is one of the most romantic photos ever taken from space and coincidentally it was taken on Valentine's Day, Valentine's Day. Valentine's Day. What makes photography special is not the dazzling views it reveals, nor the discoveries it contains, but what it tells us. Specifically, the probe took a picture of the Earth 6000 million kilometers Ha. About 40 times the distance separating our planet from the Sun, more than the average distance between Pluto and a star. In this picture, the Earth is nothing more than a dot. One pixelSurrounded by absolute emptiness and suspended in a beam of light. The picture was an idea Carl Sagan Who asked the probe to turn its instruments for the last time towards Earth, to try to capture it from a distance.

NASA, Carl Sagan | A modified version of the image “Pale Blue Dot”. The bright spot is planet Earth.

What many people don't know is that on that day, the Voyager probe not only photographed our planet. That distant image of Earth, which would eventually get the name Pale blue dot (pale blue dot, in English), was part of the family photo of the solar system. On February 14, Voyager 1 took about 60 images in the direction of the sun, six of which showed the planets, and the other 54 gave some context. In this way, the probe took pictures of Venus, Earth, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune from a distance of just over 6 billion kilometers from the Sun, and this mosaic of images is the only one available to us that shows the solar system from afar, as it can be seen if we study it from afar. Exoplanet far.

NASA, Voyager 1 | Family photo of the solar system, with 6 of the 8 planets

This image prompted Carl Sagan to say the following:

From this perspective, the Earth does not seem particularly important, but it is different for us. Think about this point again: This is here, this is our home, and this is us. […] Our imagined self-importance, the illusion that we have a privileged position in the universe, is challenged by this point of fading light. Our planet is an isolated speck in this enveloping cosmic darkness. In our darkness, in all its vastness, there is no sign that any help will come to save us from ourselves. Earth is the only planet known to support life. There is nowhere else our species can go, at least in the near future. Visit, yes. Settle down, not yet. Whether we like it or not, Earth is currently where we should stay. […] There is perhaps no better demonstration of how stupid human biases are than this distant picture of our small world. To me, this underscores our responsibility to treat others with greater kindness and to preserve and nurture that pale blue dot: the only home we've ever known.

Pale Blue Dot, 1994, Carl Sagan

References:

  • “Voyager 1's pale blue dot”. Exploring the solar system. NASA/JPL-Caltech Quinn, R. (2013).
  • “Voyager 1 has reached interstellar space.” nature. doi:10.1038/nature.2013.13735
  • “Solar System Family Portrait”. planetary.org.
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