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The iconic Pale Blue Dot image puts Earth into perspective

"To see it in that ray of light, it’s so incredibly special."

Thirty years ago, the Voyager 1 spacecraft snapped an iconic image of Earth, looking back at our planet as it stood alone in the vastness of space.

In February this year, NASA released an updated version of the image and reminded Earthlings why it’s important to take another look at ourselves and where we stand in the universe.

The new image was released on the anniversary of the original, reminding us how important it is to value the home that we occupy today and the only one we’ve ever known.

INVERSE IS COUNTING DOWN THE 20 Stories redefining what it means to be human in 2020. THIS IS NUMBER 2. See the full list here.

This updated version of the iconic "Pale Blue Dot" image taken by the Voyager 1 spacecraft uses modern image-processing software and techniques to revisit the well-known Voyager view while attempting to respect the original data and intent of those who planned the images.NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Voyager mission launched in 1977, with two twin spacecraft designed to cross into interstellar space and peer at the Solar System from the outside.

On February 14, 1990, Voyager 1 snapped a picture of Earth from 3.7 billion miles away minutes before the probe’s cameras were turned off in order to conserve power.

The image showed a tiny speck all on its own, surrounded by nothing in the vast universe.

Here's the original, 1990 image:

The Pale Blue Dot is a photograph of Earth taken Feb. 14, 1990, by NASA’s Voyager 1 at a distance of 3.7 billion miles (6 billion kilometers) from the Sun.NASA/JPL-CALTECH

At the time it was taken, there was political turmoil here on Earth, as the former Soviet Union grappled with presidential elections and ultimate dissolution, heralding in a new world order and the end of the Cold War. The image of our lonely planet provided some much-needed perspective on our human condition.

Today, as rising global temperatures threaten our planet, the image is still just as relevant.

Candice Hansen, a planetary scientist at NASA who was part of the team behind the original image, spoke to Inverse at the time and recalled how she had personally asked for the image to be taken.

Hansen, along with astrophysicist Carl Sagan who wrote a book inspired by the image titled A Pale Blue Dot, kept asking for the image of Earth until Voyager 1 was coming up on its encounter with Neptune when they secured extra funding for the additional resources.

“I was sitting there and we had a little trouble finding it in the image,” Hansen recalls. “Once I figured it out where it was, to see it in that ray of light, it’s so incredibly special.”

INVERSE IS COUNTING DOWN THE 20 Stories redefining what it means to be human in 2020. THIS IS NUMBER 2. READ THE ORIGINAL STORY HERE.

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