If like me your science fiction geekness also spills over into a fascination with real-world(s) science, you will probably guess right away from the title that this short but lovely little animation is inspired by the late, great Carl Sagan. During the epic Voyager missions which gave us such astonishing close up encounters with some of the largest and furthest planets in our own little solar system neighbourhood Sagan was one of those who campaigned to have one of the spacecraft, now finished with its primary missions around the planets, to be re-tasked and reprogrammed to turn around and take a photograph looking back into the solar system. Given commands and programming had to be transmitted over vast distances, slow even for radio waves travelling at the speed of light, this was no simple task, and there was no huge scientific gain to be made from it.
But Sagan understood that science must appeal not just to the intellect but also the heart and because of this move Voyager gave us the ‘family portrait’, a look back from the cold, dark edges of our own solar system to take in the planets, among them a tiny dot, not even an entire pixel wide in the finished image. A pale blue dot – our world, floating in the glow from the sun in space. A perspective on Earth and all our sister planets no-one in the history of the world had ever seen before. And as Sagan put it, there on that tiny, pale, blue dot is everything any of us have ever known, every person we loved, every person we’ve read about, back to the first humans who ventured out of ancient Africa and began the human journey, each and every one of them lived on that tiny dot. Joel Somerfield’s animation inspired by this historic moment is very short, but it’s a beautiful little piece celebrating a remarkable journey, combining hard science with human emotion, intellect and art – I think Carl would have approved: