NASA used modern image-processing to improve iconic “Pale Blue Dot” Image

Shane McGlaun - Feb 13, 2020, 8:48 am CST
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NASA used modern image-processing to improve iconic “Pale Blue Dot” Image

NASA has announced that it has taken one of the most iconic images the Voyager mission ever produced and improved it using modern image-processing software. The image is called “Pale Blue Dot” and was taken on February 14, 1990, only a few minutes before the Voyager 1 cameras were powered down to conserve power. The cameras were powered down because the probes would no longer make close flybys of any other objects in their lifetimes.

The updated image was made while respecting the intent of those who planned the photograph. The new color view shows the Earth as a single, bright blue pixel in the vastness of space. Rays of sunlight scattered within the camera optics stretch across the screen, with one intersecting the Earth.

Part of the reason the cameras were shutdown was to save power for the mission and enable their longevity. Many years later, the probes left our solar system and traveled into interstellar space. “Pale Blue Dot” was part of a series of 60 images that Voyager 1 snapped to produce what was called “Family Portrait of the Solar System.”

The sequence of camera pointing commands returned six images of the solar system’s planets along with the sun. “Pale Blue Dot” was created using the color images Voyager took of Earth. The name of the image was traced to the title of the 1994 book written by Carl Sagan, who was a Voyager imaging scientist.

Sagan originated the idea of using the Voyager cameras to image the distant Earth and played a critical role in enabling the family portrait images to be taken. Voyager spacecraft were built by JPL, which continues to operate both spacecraft.


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