A tale of two pictures

The earth rising over the moon, taken Christmas Eve 1968

Christmas can be a hectic time, office parties, catching up with friends and family, up early for Santa and and days spent visiting and being visited. It can also be a time for reflection.

With that in mind, allow me to present two pictures that give us a unique insight and pause for thought, to contemplate our place in the universe.

The first one was taken on Christmas Eve in 1968 by William Anders, a passionate nature photographer and an astronaut on-board Apollo 8. As the spacecraft orbited the moon, the view out the window showed the earth rising over the moon’s horizon. Anders grabbed a camera and fired off a few shots. The resulting image of a three quarters full earth as it rose on another world, illustrated for the first time our place in the universe. We live on a ball of rock, water and clouds, a planet of many different nations, countries and creeds, but all united on one planet. It was a powerful image, that helped shape the environmental movement, whilst serving to reinforce the idea that no matter our differences, we all share and are responsible for the same world.

The second image was taken in 1990 by the voyager 1 spacecraft as it sped out of our solar system. Once it’s primary mission at Jupiter and Saturn was completed, the camera was turned around and pointed at earth and the sun. The distance was six billion kilometres. The resulting image showed earth as little more that a dot, a pale blue dot almost lost in the glare of a sun beam. The guy responsible for getting the image taken was Carl Sagan and of the pale blue dot he had the following to say.

“On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every 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.”

Merry Christmas and thanks for reading.

The earth suspended in a sunbeam, taken by Voyager in 1990