My life is a little hectic at the moment due to UCAS (University Application) deadlines and so on. While in the middle of composing my personal statement, I found a small tribute text I had written about Carl Sagan last year as a response to the following question for an application.
If you could have dinner with anyone alive or dead, who would it be and why?
And I followed up with this:
I would love to have dinner with Carl Sagan.
Carl Sagan is one of my greatest inspirations in astronomy and someone I regard as a legend. Not only was he a remarkable astronomer and cosmologist, he was also an exceptional communicator of Science.
His planetary science contributions included work on the surface temperature of Venus, and research on extraterrestrial life. He was in the NASA team which helped launch Voyager 1 (the farthest spacecraft from Earth) to carry out interstellar exploration.
I had always known Carl Sagan as the host of the mini TV series “Cosmos” but I hadn’t truly looked into his works before spontaneously finding the infamous image of our little planet took from six billion kilometres away – The Pale Blue Dot. This extraordinary photograph is one of the notable achievements of Voyager 1 and of Sagan’s. After the probe had flew past the Gas giants, Sagan made a surprising decision for it to turn itself around and take a picture of us in the centre of scattered light rays. Not until then had I realised our insignificance amongst the grand cosmic dark and the one almost concealed pixel was and is the only home to the human species. However it reminds us of our never ending potential and capabilities, through our extensive work on physics research and technological innovations, we had the competence to send a space probe so far out into the solar system.
The speech Sagan gave along with the photograph had a touching and poignant effect on me at a personal level. Listening to such soft-spoken and beautiful words about our existence within the void of the Universe left me speechless and develop the uttermost respect for him. Through his profound speech I obtained a valuable message which in summary is the conclusion to his words, he said, “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.”
Carl Sagan is a never diminishing inspiration to me due to his humble open minded perspective in viewing our realities within the Universe and his insightful and inquiring way of thought about the cosmos. In the new Cosmos series hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, he describes his hero, Carl Sagan as someone who “reminds me of those ghost stars in the sky, you know, the ones that still shine their light upon us, long after they’re gone.” which I think is a beautifully put phrase in memory of Sagan’s forever influence on people who love Space, like me.
I thought it would be nice to share this with all of you.
The Pale Blue Dot definitely makes me contemplate our existence in the Universe in the most genuine and humble way.
Until next time,
Author – Susan Chen
Susan is a 6th year high school student currently studying three STEM subjects at Scottish Advanced Higher level – Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry. She particularly loves ideas in cosmology and hopes to embark on an academic journey in the area of Physics.