You Are Here
Wanna feel insignificant? Walk outside and look straight up. If you see the sun, think about the fact that it is so far away, you are looking at the past, approx 8.3 minutes ago. You also need to think about the fact that light is the fastest traveling entity the we know of, period. Faster than your voice or your phone, internet connection, faster than anything we humans can observe. We as humans have killed the sound barrier in jets, simply murdered the speed of sound with current gen avionics and are as far away from light travel as Paris Hilton is from being a devout nun who dabbles in quantum physics and actual talent (you see what I did there, I called her a whore and stupid and talentless, nobody has ever done that, ever, I’m the first, I’m the best, don’t deny it, but don’t deny it silently, cause shut up!). So anyway our sun is so far away and I mean faaaaaaaaaaar away, yet so big and powerful that even it’s 8 minute old rays can permanently blind you in mere seconds (~27secs) if you look directly at it. See! Instant insignificance, you have just become less than an amoeba in size and distance comparison. Now, if you see the moon, that image only 3 seconds old, much closer, but still exponentially older than say the light from screen you’re reading. But if you see the stars, the light of the closest star (excl. our sun) is ~4.3 years old. Repeat, the closest star. Image not actual distance, just the light transmission, Four. Years. Old. and some are so far away, they’re not there anymore, they’ve disappeared millions of years ago and you’re just now seeing the light they emitted eons before the dinosaurs. But for those too lazy to actually walk outside and then expend the energy of bending your head backwards (I’m lazy too, I understand) you can look at these, some of my favorite images from space, showing where we as a planet really stand universally and not fully universally, just as far away as the camera could get and still capture the photo and transmit it back to our little blue planet.
1. Earthrise: This is actually the second version of Earthrise, taken by Williams Anders of the Apollo 8 mission back in 1968, the first was taken in black & white by his fellow crewmate and mission commander, Frank Borman, before Anders could find color film for this shot. It’s a beautifully stunning image and it also shows that size is relative, from our far smaller moon (remember it’s small enough that we drag it around us with the gravity our fat ass planet produces) our planet looks the size of…the moon. Oh, you’re also looking at it wrong, it was taken w/ a counter-clockwise 90 degrees orientation, but this way makes much more of an impact and an infinitely better picture right? (If you were as cool as me, you could rotate your LCD 360degrees for any orientation you please, but if your not a pompous assed nerd, you could stick it into any image program and rotate it, the feature is built into all Windows OSes since probably win98, oh I’ve also mad an ass out of myself because I just realized that when I rotate the screen it auto orients to it’s position, so I’d still see the Earth up top anyway…let’s just forget this all and move on.)
Earth and Moon: This is a compsite picture, the author’s intent is to show the true distance relation of the two bodies. The Earth and our Moon are 250,000 miles apart and you, the observer, are approx. 350,000 miles away in the view. See what I mean? It is just crazy to think about how far away those things out there really are. If you want to know what truly makes me a nerd, is that I am fascinated by these things. The perspective that one needs to have (or should have) to actually know your place in this planet, solar system, galaxy, universe, possibly multiverse, I wont even get into alt timelines/universe possibilities. But sometimes I am just awed by the size of it all, the fact that the 250,000 miles displayed here, might as well be a millimeter on the grand scale and it’s beautiful,
Pale Blue Dot: Finally, my flat out favorite space photo ever. When Voyager I had finished it’s planetary duties, and was sent towards the outskirts of our galaxy (it currently has passed our Termination Shock and is entering the Heliosheath), Carl Sagan suggested that the probe be turned toward us to take an image of Earth and the other planets, this is the result. You may say it looks like static or someone has gone wild with Photoshop’s noise filter and lens flares, but that little bright blue speck inside the middle of that brownish colored band on the far right, that is us, us from 3.7 to over 4 BILLION MILES! Our little dust spot of a planet. It sets me back a bit, because that photo was taken so very far away but still well inside our milky way. The photo was taken in 1990, 13 years after Voyager was launched along with it’s brother Voyager II (ironically launched 16 days before Voyager I, Alanis Morrissette take notes)
So yeah, we may be small, individually, but here’s the thing, those pictures, they were taken by us, WE did that and WE WILL do more, much more, so I guess it’s all about balance and since I can’t do it better, I’ll leave it off with a little script written by the man, Carl Sagan, speaking on the Pale Blue Dot image and what it means, but relating to all that I’ve added here.
“ Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.
It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”
edit: I hate to come back after Sagan, but after I “went to the presses”, I came across this pic in my blog links and this here is a beautiful picture of Saturn taken by the Cassini craft and that little thing in the upper left corner, that little cocky background disturber, that lil’ firecracker is us. That’s right, the lil’ blue marble strikes again, and this photo is nice and clean enough that it captured our natural satellite (we call it the moon), it’s that gaseous looking dusty bubble in the Earth’s upper left. Cassini is the only craft besides the Voyager I to catch Earth from such a distance (though much closer than Voyager’s opus) it even uses Saturn as a sun block so that, We the pebble, can get our deep space cameo, which makes this pic fit right in with the rest. Yay Earth!!