"Pale Blue Dot" by NASA / Public Domain

30 years after ‘pale blue dot’ photo of Earth, the coronavirus reminds us of our fragility

May 12, 2020

By Ray Jayawardhana

On Valentine’s Day of 1990, following fly-bys of Jupiter and Saturn and on its way out of the solar system, the Voyager 1 spacecraft looked back one last time at the planet whence it was launched. The picture it captured of the Earth as a blurry dot hovering in the dark takes on a new poignancy this month — three decades since the image transferred back to Earth.

That’s because a lot has changed even since February, when NASA released a sharper, reprocessed version to mark the 30th anniversary of the image. Today, perhaps more than ever, the sparse visual serves as a stark, if not painful, reminder of humanity’s vulnerability and interdependence as we wrestle with the havoc wreaked by a pandemic.

To be sure, that fuzzy speck, registered on a single pixel, barely discernible amid streaks of light resulting from internal reflections of the spacecraft’s camera, doesn’t exactly dazzle our eyes.

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