Billions and Billions of Worlds

In observance of the first annual Carl Sagan Day honoring the late, great astronomer and communicator, I'd like to share an inspiring link to a 360-degree panorama of the cosmos titled "One thousand billion worlds" by acclaimed astrophotographer Serge Brunier. Click the link to view full screen, wait for the Flash file to load in your browser, and enjoy exploring the heavens in any direction on the celestial sphere. It's almost as much fun as Google Sky.

Brunier stitched together over 1200 photos using GigaPan, which is the same software used to create the panorama of Obama's inaugural address. The huge panorama of the universe was originally on display at the Casino of Monte-Carlo in September.

As of this writing, there are 404 known extrasolar planets. Even counting Pluto, that means we only know about 413 planets - a far cry from the "billions and billions" of worlds that must be out there. Ironically, Sagan claimed he never said "billions and billions", but the phrase is stuck in our lexicon as one of the most noteworthy misquotes from the scientist.

Carl Sagan Day 2009 celebrates the astronomer's would-be 75th birthday. He died in 1996 while the film Contact based on his book was in production. Sagan's vision led him to assemble the Voyager Golden Record and advocate that Voyager 1 take the famous "Pale Blue Dot" photo. He also co-founded The Planetary Society, an organization I have supported as a member for 15 years. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author was best known to the public by his Cosmos series on PBS:

If you'd like to visit one of those billions of worlds I mentioned, just respond to this Craigslist ad, and you may find yourself on the next rocket to Titan, as pillownaut reported earlier this week.

I'll leave you with a real quote from Sagan's seminal Cosmos book:

The size and age of the Cosmos are beyond ordinary human understanding. Lost somewhere between immensity and eternity is our tiny planetary home. In a cosmic perspective, most human concerns seem insignificant, even petty. And yet our species is young and curious and brave and shows much promise.


Kiri said…
Beautiful panorama; thank you for sharing it. I also appreciated the link to Cosmos, and chuckled about the "astronot" ad. Thanks!

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