In 1977, NASA launched the satellite “Voyager” on a one-way mission- straight out away from the sun to take pictures of our solar system.  13 years later, Voyager had reached the edge of our solar system, 3.7 billion miles away.   Carl Sagan, the leading voice of the day, along with his team of astronomers, instructed Voyager to turn and take one final picture of Earth before it exited our solar system.

When the astronomers finally received the image back from Voyager, the photograph shocked the entire scientific world.  From 3.7 billion miles away, the earth was a tiny dot against the backdrop of a huge black expanse.  Up to that point they knew the size of Earth in proportion to our solar system, but in that moment, they saw it for the first time…

For years scientists have known that light travels 186,000 miles/second- that is 7 times around the world in one second!  The Sun is 93 million miles away.  It takes 8 minutes for the Sun’s light to reach the earth’s surface.  How far does light travel in a year?

(60 seconds x 60 minutes x 24 hours x 365 days = 31,536,000 seconds in a year)

31,536,000 x 186,000 miles = 5,870,000,000,000 miles/year.  5.87 trillion miles (a light year) is what scientists use to chart their way through the universe.

Astronomers say our Milky Way galaxy is 100,000 light years across. We live on the outer fringes of the Milky Way between two spiral bands where it’s safe for our solar system.  Our Sun is one of billions of stars in our galaxy, among hundreds of billions of galaxies in our known universe.  Relative to the universe, our Milky Way is the size of a quarter in an area the size of North America.  Somewhere in that quarter of a billion plus stars is one star called the Sun, and orbiting around it is a tiny planet called Earth.

Carl Sagan, knowing all of these facts, and now looking at this image of Earth from 3.7 billion miles away, penned these words:

“We succeeded in taking that picture [from deep space], and, if you look at it, you see a dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.

The earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and in triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of the dot on scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of the dot. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light.  Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark.” (Carl Sagan- 1990)

We are a very small part of an unimaginably large universe.  My tendency is to exaggerate my importance.  I forget that my life is not the central story – that I am only a speck on a speck called Earth.  I can take life too seriously.  In all my straining and struggling to hold my life together, I must remember there is a God bigger than the depths of the universe, who still knows each one of us by name.  If God can call the universe into existence with one thought, all I can do is rest in his control and enjoy his creation.  My problems are not very big.

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?  Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!” – God speaking to Job (Job 38:4-5)

I am a speck of dust on planet earth – a speck of dust in our solar system – a speck of dust in our galaxy – a speck of dust in the known universe.  Yet God knows everything about me