Starts With A Bang

5 NASA Photos That Changed The World (Synopsis)

Astronaut Jeffrey Hoffman removes Wide Field and Planetary Camera 1 (WFPC 1) during change-out operations. This was taken during the first Hubble servicing mission, which led to some of the greatest images humanity has ever taken, from both a scientific and an aesthetic perspective. Image credit: NASA.

“Truth in science, however, is never final, and what is accepted as a fact today may be modified or even discarded tomorrow. Science has been greatly successful at explaining natural processes, and this has led not only to increased understanding of the universe but also to major improvements in technology and public health and welfare.” -National Academy of Sciences

It’s no secret that peering out into the distant Universe is best done from space, just as looking at our entire world is best done from that same vantage point. For all of human history until the mid-20th century, this was an utter impossibility. But thanks to advances in rocketry, and how NASA managed to put space technology together, we now have views of everything from our home planet to the deepest recesses of the Universe that have taught us lessons we never could have imagined.

This narrow-angle color image of the Earth, dubbed ‘Pale Blue Dot’, is a part of the first ever ‘portrait’ of the solar system taken by Voyager 1. The spacecraft acquired a total of 60 frames for a mosaic of the solar system from a distance of more than 4 billion miles from Earth and about 32 degrees above the ecliptic. From Voyager’s great distance Earth is a mere point of light, less than the size of a picture element even in the narrow-angle camera. Earth was a crescent only 0.12 pixel in size. Image credit: NASA / JPL.

From the most distant galaxies to a distant view of Earth, all the way back to the youngest baby picture of the Universe ever taken, NASA has been with us throughout every step of the journey. As we peer ever deeper into the abyss and put not just the cosmic story but our place in it into perspective, it’s important to periodically look back at the beautiful but science-rich images that helped shape our view of what all this is actually about.

The full UV-visible-IR composite of the Hubble eXtreme Deep Field; the greatest image ever released of the distant Universe. Image credit: NASA, ESA, H. Teplitz and M. Rafelski (IPAC/Caltech), A. Koekemoer (STScI), R. Windhorst (Arizona State University), and Z. Levay (STScI).

Come see the five NASA photos that changed the world, and see if your list of five would be any different. (I bet it would be!)