NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, is releasing a new version of the photograph known as the “Pale Blue Dot” to commemorate the 30th anniversary of one of the most iconic vistas from the Voyager mission.
While preserving the purpose of those who intended the image, the new image makes advantage of modern image-processing software and techniques. The new colour view, like the original, depicts Planet Earth as a single bright blue pixel in the expanse of space. Sunlight rays scattered within the camera optics spread across the picture, one of which has a dramatic collision with Earth.
The image was taken on Feb. 14, 1990, just minutes before Voyager 1’s cameras were turned off to save power and so that the probe — and its twin, Voyager 2 — would not conduct any near flybys of other objects during their lifetimes. On the two Voyager spacecraft, shutting down instruments and other systems has been a slow and continual procedure that has aided their lifetime. This famous Voyager 1 photograph was part of a set of 60 images intended to create the “Family Portrait of the Solar System,” as the project termed it. Six of the solar system’s planets, as well as the Sun, were visible in this sequence of camera-pointing orders.
Voyager’s colour photos of Earth were used to produce the Pale Blue Dot view. The famous name for this view comes from the title of a book written by Carl Sagan, a Voyager imaging scientist who came up with the idea of using Voyager’s cameras to picture the distant Earth and was instrumental in allowing the family portrait images to be shot.
Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter, and Venus were all photographed by Voyager 1 in addition to Earth.Mars was hidden by dispersed sunlight bouncing about in the camera, Mercury was too near to the Sun, and dwarf planet Pluto was too small, too far away, and too dark to be spotted in the photo.
Humans were given an awe-inspiring and unparalleled glimpse of their home Earth and its neighbors as a result of the photos. Each planet appears as a speck of light, similar to Earth (Uranus and Neptune appear elongated due to spacecraft motion during their 15-second camera exposures). Finding a means to present the photographs and convey the enormity of Voyager’s achievement was difficult. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of NASA, designed and operates the spacecraft.
Sagan was a key figure in the United States’ space programme. Beginning in the 1950s, the renowned planetary scientist served as a consultant and adviser to NASA. Before the Apollo astronauts flew to the Moon, he briefed them. Sagan assisted in the planning and management of the Mariner 2 mission to Venus, the Mariner 9, Viking 1 and Viking 2 journeys to Mars, the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 missions to the outer solar system, and the Galileo mission to Jupiter while working as a visiting scientist at JPL.
Sagan was part of the Voyager Imaging Team as well. He had the original idea in 1981 to use the cameras on one of the two Voyager spacecraft to image Earth.
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