Home, from the start of a long, long journey

Home, from the start of a long, long journey

Home, from the start of a long, long journey

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
Aug. 31 2011 6:13 AM

Home, from the start of a long, long journey

Sometimes, my favorite pictures from space are among the ones that look least interesting... until you understand what you're seeing.

For example, this doesn't look like much, does it?

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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Ah, but that picture shows so, so much. It shows everything!

That's us. You, me, everyone. That fuzzy blob on the left? That's Earth. The one on the right: the Moon.

In this one simple picture, you can see everywhere humans have ever been; hundreds of thousands of years spent on Earth, and a few brief days on the Moon. And this picture was taken from much farther than anyone has ever traveled.

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This view of our home worlds was seen by Juno, a spacecraft launched on August 5. By August 26th, when it took this snapshot, it was already nearly 10 million kilometers (6 million miles) away. And yet this is merely a baby step compared to its total journey: it will take a long, sweeping path to Jupiter, traveling nearly 3 billion kilometers before arriving at its destination.

Take another look at that picture. See how close together they look? It took humans more than three days to bridge that gulf from one of those clumps of pixels to the other.

Pictures like this are important. They remind us that of where we really are, how much we've achieved, how far we have to go. And that our planet really is just a pale blue dot, swimming in a vast, empty black ocean.

Of course, there are better words about this I can muster. Perhaps now would be a good time to refresh yourself about them.

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