25 years ago, from 4 billion miles away… a glimpse of your planet

From APOD comes this marvelous image:

Explanation: On another Valentine’s Day 25 years ago, cruising four billion miles from the Sun, the Voyager 1 spacecraft looked back one last time to make this first ever Solar System family portrait. The complete portrait is a 60 frame mosaic made from a vantage point 32 degrees above the ecliptic plane. In it, Voyager’s wide angle camera frames sweep through the inner Solar System at the left, linking up with gas giant Neptune, the Solar System’s outermost planet, at the far right. Positions for Venus, Earth, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune are indicated by letters, while the Sun is the bright spot near the center of the circle of frames. The inset frames for each of the planets are from Voyager’s narrow field camera. Unseen in the portrait are Mercury, too close to the Sun to be detected, and Mars, unfortunately hidden by sunlight scattered in the camera’s optical system. Closer to the Sun than Neptune at the time, small, faint Pluto’s position was not covered.




Another view of the “pale blue dot”.

Earth appears to be hardly the size of a single pixel.

pale blue dot

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Sieber says:


  2. acardnal says:

    Save the Liturgy, Save the Universe.

  3. McCall1981 says:

    Is this the probe that Capt Kirk and Spock have to stop when it comes back as V’ger?

  4. Sonshine135 says:

    Voyager 1 is now the most distant man-made object in the Universe. A couple of years ago, it crossed into interstellar space.

  5. The Cobbler says:

    McCall1981, I think that was Voyager 6… but it’s been a while…

  6. SanSan says:

    It’s so amazing how Our Lord holds us in just the right place…..a precious jewel of His.

  7. Well, that certainly puts the spilled coffee on the kitchen floor this morning in its proper perspective.

  8. Athelstan says:

    “O God, thy sea is so great and my boat is so small.”

  9. Eric says:

    Save the Liturgy, Save the Single Pixel.

  10. q7swallows says:

    “I will behold Thy heavens, the works of Thy Fingers: the moon and the stars which Thou hast founded. What is man that Thou art mindful of him? or the son of man that Thou visitest him?” Ps. 8:4

  11. A.D. says:

    “O Lord, I love the beauty of Thy house and the place where Thy Glory dwells.”

  12. tzard says:

    “Earth lost and little like a pea in high heaven’s towering forestry.”

  13. jacobi says:

    “In the Beginning was the Word
    and the Word was with God
    and the Word was God

    the same was in the beginning with God

    and all things were made by Him
    and without Him was made nothing that was made”

    How well St John, or I suspect in this case, the Holy Ghost, puts it.

  14. Landless Laborer says:

    The Book of Job

    4 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? tell me, if thou hast understanding.

    5 Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?

    6 Upon what are its bases grounded? or who laid the corner-stone thereof,

    …31 Shalt thou be able to join together the shining stars, the Pleiades, or canst thou stop the turning about of Arcturus?

    32 Canst thou bring forth the day-star in its time, and make the evening-star to rise upon the children of the earth?

    33 Dost thou know the order of heaven, and canst thou set down the reason thereof on the earth?

  15. The Masked Chicken says:

    Although there is much talk in astrobiology circles about exoplanets, we live with the Fermi Paradox:

    If we are the only game in the universe and God took 13.8 billion years to get us here, then how precious and unreproducible every life is and, yet, we kill with almost no provocation. Wars, seen from this standpoint, are the worst form of destruction in the known universe – far worse than any crushing by a black hole, because black holes have no freedom to choose what they destroy. Sometimes, just to put the fear of God into people, the Ten Commandments should be read from the perspective and envy of the rest of the cosmos:

    4. Honor your Father and Mother, for they are the only ones ever to exist and when you lose then, they are lost;
    5. Thou shalt not kill, because you don’t have another 13.8 billion years and a spare universe to undo the damage;
    6. Thou shalt not commit adultery, because the connection between a man and a woman in marriage is stronger than the strong nuclear force and extends farther than the pull of gravity and this fifth force is only known to exist on planet Earth in marriage;
    7. Thou shalt not steal, for only mindless planets capture the orbits of other planets. You have the ability to resist the mindless pull of the rest of the universe;
    8. Thou shalt not bear false witness, because only man, in all of the universe has that defect;
    9. Thou shalt not covet they neighbor’s wife, because she exists in a pocket universe accessible only to her husband and you will surely die from the inter-dimensional barrier forces;
    10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors good, because well, that’s how that’s how asteroid belts are made – they just wanted what the other planets had and they were smashed to bits because of it – be happy with what you have.

    The Chicken

  16. iamlucky13 says:

    If you’ll excuse be a bit of nerdism:

    “Earth appears to be hardly the size of a single pixel.”

    Less than a pixel, in fact. But light falling anywhere on a pixel can stimulate it and cause it to record a brightness value, even though the full pixel is not illuminated – NASA says earth was about 1/8 of a pixel wide in that photo. Even the far larger camera on the Hubble would only have seen Earth as a couple pixels from that distance.

    Actually, even discussing pixels is not really an accurate description, because Voyager does not have a pixel based digital camera. Voyager was being assembled at the same time as a couple engineers at Kodak were first tinkering with a type of semi-conductor called a charge-coupled device (CCD) to create the first digital camera. Earlier work had created digital images from CCD’s, but no one had developed an integrated camera system. The Air Force launched their first spy satellite with an electronic camera a year before Voyager, but it was more complex than what Kodak ultimately created, and classified. The first NASA space probe to carry a modern digital camera was the Galileo mission to Jupiter, launched 12 years after Voyager.

    So Voyager instead use a high quality vidicon tube camera – basically a highly improved version of the same basic form of analog camera used for TV ever since Philo Farnsworth first demonstrated his prototype in 1928. It used a cathode ray tube to scan an image line by line, and converted the analog values in increments that approximate pixels to digital values to transmit. The distance meant planets in the picture appeared extremely dim.

    These were the last images that Voyager took. There was nothing else close by to take images of, and the camera used a lot of power and too much bandwidth to transmit back to earth regularly. That bandwidth and power was needed for the instruments that Voyager is using to measure the properties at the edge of the solar system. It took a lot of influence from Carl Sagan to get the mission planners to agree to interrupt their science operations to take this historic image.

  17. gramma10 says:

    “A person’s a person no matter how small”
    Imagine how tiny we are if that speck is our earth. And….our Creator puts us almost as high as the Angels!
    Plus we are even made in His image and Likeness! Thank you….Jesus!

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