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Iconic ‘pale blue dot’ photo turns 30, time to spot other worlds

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Rebecca Valli

The iconic photograph of planet Earth from distant space – the “pale blue dot” – was taken 30 years ago on Feb. 14, 1990, at a distance of 3.7 billion miles, by the NASA spacecraft Voyager 1 as it zipped toward the far edge of the solar system. The late Cornell astronomy professor Carl Sagan came up with the idea for the snapshot, and coined the phrase.

Lisa Kaltenegger

Professor of Astronomy, Director of the Carl Sagan Institute

Lisa Kaltenegger, director of Cornell University’s Carl Sagan Institute and a professor of astrophysics, says that 30 years after that iconic picture we now have the technical means to spot other pale dots orbiting distant stars.

“The ‘pale blue dot’ image shows our world as both breathtakingly beautiful and fragile. Urging us to take care of our home.

“To this day it is the furthest away image of our own world – showing its beauty and at the same time reminding us to safeguard our pale blue dot, ‘the only home we have ever known’ as Carl Sagan wrote.

“And now we are spotting other pale dots orbiting distant suns, wondering whether we are alone in the universe.”

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