Friday, February 12, 2010

A 'lighter' shade of pale...

If I asked you what happened 20 years ago you might tell me;
  • Nelson Mandela was released from a South African jail.
  • The Sandinistas are defeated in Nicaraguan elections.
  • The Windows 3.0 operating system is released by Microsoft.
  • The pilot episode of Seinfeld premiers.
  • Re-unification of Germany. East Germany ceases to exist.
  • July 8th,1990 - At 12:34:56 the time and date by US reckoning was 12:34:56 7/8/9/0.
  • Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to lessen Cold War tensions and open up his nation.
    And if you told me any one of those events happened 20 years ago you’d be correct. But this week marks the 20th anniversary of one very special photograph. A very dramatic photograph. Though, at first glance, it's mostly dark and seems to show nothing at all. See the NASA photo below...

    From the NASA website referring to the “pale blue dot”…
    A recent photo from the Cassini spacecraft shows the mighty planet Saturn, and if you look very closely between its wing-like rings, a faint pinprick of light. That tiny dot is Earth bustling with life as we know it. The image is the second ever taken of our world from deep space. The first, captured by the Voyager spacecraft in 1990, stunned many people, including the famous astronomer Carl Sagan who called our seemingly miniscule planet a "pale blue dot" and "the only home we've ever known."
    • All images & illustrations courtesy of NASA. Be sure to check out the Clint Black 'Galaxy Song' video below...
      While not a scientist, I realize this plae blue dot we call Planet Earth is nothing short of fascinating. We know in the staggering vastness of our universe there very well may be another planet harboring life. Yet the sheer challenge of finding that ‘needle-in-a-hay-stack’ is an incredible task. On the other hand what science is showing us about our own planet is how absolutely unique it, and consequently, we are. Consider the ‘Pale Blue Dot’ image of our planet earth above. Now the words of the late astronomer Carl Sagan:

      “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.”
      Lets start to draw this to a close with the lyrics to the GALAXY SONG (there's a video link of Clint Black doing this song embedded at the end of this post). And - Yes, the math is real...

      Whenever life gets you down, Mrs. Brown,
      And things seem hard, or tough,
      And people are stupid, obnoxious, or daft,
      And you feel that you've had quite enough,

      Just remember that you're standing on a planet that's evolving
      And revolving at nine hundred miles an hour, it's orbiting at nineteen miles a second, so it's reckoned,
      Around a sun that is the source of all our power.
      The sun and you and me and all the stars that we can see
      Are moving at a million miles a day
      In an outer spiral arm, at forty thousand miles an hour,
      Of the galaxy we call the 'Milky Way'.

      Our galaxy itself contains a hundred billion stars.
      It's a hundred thousand light years side to side.
      It bulges in the middle, sixteen thousand light years thick,
      But out by us, it's just three thousand light years wide.

      We're thirty thousand light years from galactic central point.
      We go 'round every two hundred million years,
      And our galaxy is only one of millions of billions
      In this amazing and expanding universe.

      The universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding
      In all of the directions it can whizz
      As fast as it can go, at the speed of light, you know,
      Twelve million miles a minute, and that's the fastest speed there is.

      So remember, when you're feeling very small and insecure,
      How amazingly unlikely is your birth,
      And pray that there's intelligent life somewhere up in space, '
      Cause there isn't any down here on Earth...

      Here is a link to the NPR Pale Blue Dot story:

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