July 19, 2014

A year ago today, the Cassini spacecraft was turned to image Saturn and its rings and moons during a total eclipse of the sun. It had been done twice before during its previous 9 years in orbit, but this time was different.

This time, the images collected captured a glimpse of our own planet far, far in the distance on a day that was the first time the Earth’s inhabitants knew in advance their picture would be taken from a billion miles away.

It was a day to revel in the extraordinary achievements in the exploration of our solar system that have made such an interplanetary salute possible. It was a day for people the world over to smile together in celebration of life on the Pale Blue Dot.

And that’s exactly what happened.

At the appropriate time, people the world over stopped what they were doing, went outside, gathered together with friends and family, thought about the utter isolation of our world in the never-ending blackness of space, relished its lush, life-sustaining beauty, and marveled at their own existence and that of all life on planet Earth.

And they smiled, knowing that others around the world were smiling too, in the sheer joy of simply being alive on a pale blue dot.

Tell us what YOU did at that moment on the day the Earth smiled?

Comments: The Day the Earth Smiled

Pale Blue Dot 2.0

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home.

These were the words of iconic astronomer Carl Sagan in describing the Pale Blue Dot photograph, a distant portrait of our planet as taken by Voyager 1. Seen from roughly 6 billion kilometers away, Earth is visible only as a small dot hanging in the darkness of deep space.

On July 19th, Cassini will have the opportunity to take a photograph of similar magnitude. As the orbiter turns to image Saturn and its entire ring system during a total eclipse of the sun, Earth will be in position to make a special appearance.

While attempts of a similar nature have been attempted since the Pale Blue Dot image was first taken in 1990, this attempt will be what Carolyn Porco, now a team leader on the Cassini project, describes as “an image of the highest resolution we are capable of taking.”

The Cassini portrait session of Earth, coined as ‘The Day The Earth Smiled’, will last about 15 minutes from 2:27 to 2:42 p.m. PDT (21:27 to 21:42 UTC).

To read more about Cassini, the photograph, and ‘The Day The Earth Smiled’:

Let Congress know that you support doubling funding for NASA:

What better way to celebrate today, the day devoted to our beautiful life-giving planet, than to be reminded of the greatest, most meaningful selfie of all: The Day the Earth Smiled image taken from our silent observer at Saturn, a billion miles away, of our tiny orb, awash in the blue of its oceans, with all of us on it.

Cosmic love to all of you on Earth Day!

Did you take an image on July 19, 2013 – The Day The Earth Smiled – that portrays something unique and special about our planet, something that you would love an alien being from another world to know? Well, I am so pleased to report to you that the upload webform for submitting your image to be considered in our Message to the Milky Way contest is now officially open: This is a wonderful opportunity to be part of something big, grand and meaningful.

So, good luck and let the games begin!

And know that I am expecting great things from all of you.

Diamond Sky Productions: “Earth Beheld” Message to the Milky Way Contest


I had the pleasure of doing an interview this week with Judy Woodruff – one of the all-time great newspersons – for the PBS Newshour on Cassini; our glorious Day the Earth Smiled mosaic of Saturn, its rings, and planet Earth; and my work with Carl Sagan. It aired last night on PBS Newshour.

Woodruff also inquired about what it would take to keep Cassini going, which gave me the opening to talk about all the work we have remaining to do in the Saturn system over the next four years and the threat of termination that Cassini faces. You can watch this part of my interview, which is only available online, on the Newshour website. Let’s hope it does some good in keeping our mission and its extraordinary adventures at Saturn going.

I also, earlier in the week, did a radio interview for Colorado Public Radio in which I covered, at greater length, much of the same material.

I hope everyone had a very happy and fulfilling Thanksgiving holiday. Enjoy and stay well!

Now how cool is this!! Must be the first time that something I’ve done directly made it into the political arena. And it’s been used, in this case by David Horsey and the LA Times, to make a point about the `alien’-nation of our (US) national political process.

Wouldn’t it be even greater if the leaders of nations around the world somehow found a more poignant meaning in this picture of our tiny dot of a home and hastened to heal its ailments?