Our Pale Blue Dot

Our Pale Blue Dot thumbnail


This short film serves as an introduction into looking at Earth from space and it inspires us to consider the value of doing so in light of our changing climate.

As the film opens we imagine the sense of wonder and astonishment that, decades ago, occurred each time a ground-breaking image of Earth was returned from off-world. Humanity has always gazed upward to the stars. Now, we are finally looking back. This new perspective seems to rekindle a deeper appreciation for our living and breathing planet. It is beautiful and fragile. It is home.

In 1990, thanks to a suggestion from Carl Sagan, we have the famous Voyager 1 image of Earth; an image he later dubbed the "Pale Blue Dot". This image often gets visually intertwined with the Apollo 17 image from 1972, the "Blue Marble". Our story examines each of these images, among other famous early images of Earth from space. Ultimately we are connected to the present as we study global climate and its changes. While Our Pale Blue Dot offers a stroll down memory lane - yes, there are the voices of the Apollo 8 astronauts taking in their first Earth rise - there is more than sentimentality at work. We truly hope to build an appreciation for looking at the Earth from space-something many in modern society take for granted.

And so our film moves from single images of Earth to today's extraordinary satellite imagery. We rely daily on accurate weather forecasts via the legacy of the TIROS program. But there's more. Earth observing satellites and their continuously streaming data have provided us with decades of information about our planet's vital signs: sea ice cover, ocean temperature, greenhouse gases and vegetation - to name just a few. And what do we see?

We see much more than a snap shot of our beloved home. We see amazing details. We see all those seemingly insignificant little things adding up to a big picture. And that big picture is of us...we humans...and our Earth. The only planet we've ever called home is changing before our eyes.

While our film was truly independent and not funded by NASA or NOAA, it makes significant use of many public domain photographs and data visualizations. As filmmakers, we are indebted to the scores of people and years of hard work which make these images possible.

In the related dataset section below, we are able to highlight the Science On a Sphere datasets that we used as source material to create this movie. These could serve as a starting point to format a longer docent-led script and discussion. Source materials courtesy: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA Scientific Visualization Studio, NOAA Science On a Sphere and NOAA Visualization Lab. ISS video courtesy of the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center. Launch and historical footage by NASA & NOAA & JAXA.

Please visit our website, where we will showcase much of the NASA and NOAA source content used; as well as a collection of resources to in-depth material regarding the science of climate change.

Movie length: 7:38

NOTE: This film is freely available to the entire Science On a Sphere network, however it is not in the public domain. No segment of the film may be repurposed, re-edited or distributed in any way other than its original format, and must be shown in its entirety. This version of the film is not for internet distribution.

Related Datasets