Somewhere, some 20 billion kilometers away, the only manmade object to ever reach interstellar space is traveling away at a heliocentric speed of 17 kilometers per second. It's the Voyager 1 probe, and 26 years ago, it took one of the most remarkable pictures in history.
The thing I love about science is its ability to put life and our place in it into perspective. One of my favorite things to do is stare at the stars and think about the fact that the light hitting my eye has travelled milions of light-years — tens of quintillions of kilometers — to strike my eye. It makes our humble planet that light could circle eight times in one second seem rather insignificant amongst the vastness of space, doesn't it? Voyager 1 has been exploring that vastness for almost four decades now. On February 14, 1990, while some 6 billion kilometers from Earth, it captured the below image.
The colored stripes are glare from the sun, but if you look closely, that tiny bright dot a little past halfway down in the yellow stripe is Earth itself. The famous astrophysicist, Carl Sagan, summarized the power of the image in a far more eloquent way than I could ever dream to. Watch the video above for his take. "Pale Blue Dot" remains one of my favorite photographs of all time.
Image and video credit: NASA JPL and Caltech