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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

The Art of Our Pale Blue Dot

By Phil Plait

It is a wonderful thing that words written many years ago can inspire people today. When Carl Sagan wrote his essay âReflections on a Mote of Dustâ (commonly called âPale Blue Dotâ), he must have known how special it was. His words were inspired by a picture taken from a spacecraft 6 billion kilometers away, a probe commanded to turn around and look at our solar system from this great distance. It was so terribly remote at the time that our entire planet appears as a simple pale blue dot, a single pixel of color in a vast patch of darkness.

His essay is, in my opinion, one of the finest examples of writing in the English language. Itâs no surprise that people find new ways to honor his words. My friend Gavin Aung Than draws Zen Pencils, where he takes words by scientists and other figures and draws an inspirational web comic based on them. He took my own essay âWelcome to Scienceâ and made a phenomenal series of panels for it, and he recently did the same using Saganâs words. Itâs wonderful, and you may discover your room is very dusty as you read it.

Sagan has inspired artists in other ways too, of course. An animation was recently brought to my attention that uses Saganâs own voice to breathe new life into this phenomenal tract:

How lovely! Hearing him read that essay chokes me up, still, every time. And this video is not the only one; hereâs another favorite of mine, and this one, and this one as well. On the tenth anniversary of Saganâs death, I was moved to write about his influence on me. It is no exaggeration to say that every word I am able to communicate to you had its way eased by Saganâs pathbreaking.

If you love space, if you crave to understand the Universe around you, take heed of Saganâs words. Go out and make it known, because it is one of the best things we humans can do.

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