"It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience"
- Carl Sagan
Voyager 1 – the fastest, furthest human-made object. As of July 6, 2007, Voyager 1 is over 15.44 terameters (15.44×1012 meters, or 15.44×109 km, 103.2 AU, or 9.6 billion miles) from the Sun, and is in the boundary zone between the solar system and interstellar space. It gained the energy to escape the sun's gravity completely by performing slingshot maneuvers around Jupiter and Saturn.
Hawking is probably the most famous living scientist. His book, A Brief History of Time, is available in paperback and I strongly recommend it. It has sold in excess of 10 million copies, and I think he sold about five million before the paperback version. For a book to sell so many copies is almost unheard of in the history of science writing.
There has been a film made about the book. The film is also good. There has even been a book made about the film. Hawking has a wonderful sense of humor. He writes in the introduction of the second book, "This is the book of the film of the book. I don't know if they are planning a film of the book of the film of the book."
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THE PALE BLUE DOT
Carl Sagan's famous words on the Voyager-I Image of "Earth" taken from the outskirts of the Solar System as it takes a final picture before escaping the Solar Gravity. The picture was taken on February 1990 showing the earth as only a blue dot in empty black space.
Carl Sagan coined the words "The Pale Blue Dot". (Read /View Carl Sagan's words below)
“ Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, 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.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.
It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.
---Words of Carl Sagan