This is the first picture of Earth taken from a planet beyond the moon.

It was taken by the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit, one hour before sunrise on the 63rd Martian day, or sol, of its mission. (March 8, 2004)

This picture is very similar to another, older photograph of Earth.

Twenty years ago, the Voyager I spacecraft was reaching the edge of our solar system. It had passed Pluto and had completed its primary mission.

Carl Sagan convinced NASA to spin it around to look back at our home planet and capture an image of a pale blue dot from six billion kilometres away.

Later, Dr Sagan eloquently put that image in perspective:

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that 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 was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, 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 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 this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, 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. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

Image: NASA/JPL/Cornell/Texas A&M

Today was a glorious day for the London Tweed Run.

What is the Tweed Run, you ask?

According to the website, it is a Metropolitan bicycle ride with a bit of style. Which means proper attire is expected. Tweed suits, plus fours, bowties, cycling capes, and jaunty flat caps are all encouraged

The first really warm sunny weather of the year happily coincided with the event so I boarded the No. 49 omnibus and made my way to Kensington Gardens where the 400 or so gentleman (and lady) cyclists stopped for tea.

The riders were indeed stylish with many jaunty flat caps, waist coats and pipes and no lycra, helmets or derailleurs to be seen.

It looked like a lot of fun. Check out the pictures in the gallery.

I’m usually a bit sceptical of those people you see taking pictures in art galleries. I mean, what’s the point? A snapshot on your little point-and-shoot is hardly going to do justice to the energy of van Gogh’s Starry Night or the subtle light of Turner’s Norham Castle, Sunrise.

But while I was messing about with MOMA’s really excellent free audio I realised I could use the camera in my iPhone to make some nice wallpapers of modern art.

So here are some iPhone wallpapers from MOMA’s collection. To use them you can download to your PC by right-clicking on the thumbnail and choosing Save Link As and then sync the pictures to your iPhone.

You can also visit this page directly in your iPhone. To download the picture, tap and hold the image thumbnail and open it in a new page, then tap and hold again to save a copy to your iPhone.

SmugImportSmugMug is great.

As the marketing material says, SmugMug gives you

  • Gorgeous online albums
  • Unlimited storage
  • Privacy when you need it
  • Complete customisation
  • No ads or spam
  • Stunning HD video

I’ve been using SmugMug for a couple of years now and a quick glance at the stats in my control panel tells me I have uploaded 7,197 photos, totalling 21.58GB. That’s a lot of photos.

But while my photos look about a bajillion times better on SmugMug than they do on Facebook, there are some advantages to having them on Facebook, as well. In the past this meant uploading each photo twice; once into SmugMug and then again into Facebook. That’s a pain, even with a pretty fast connection.

While you can post links to your SmugMug galleries on Facebook I wanted to be able to import them into their own Facebook albums  so I wrote a Facebook application to do it.

SmugImport allows you to import your galleries from SmugMug directly into Facebook.

At the moment it only works with public SmugMug galleries but I plan to add support for private galleries in the near future.

If you don’t have a SmugMug account and would like a 14 day free trial then head over to the signup form. Standard accounts start at $39.95 per year and if you use this coupon you can save $5: nSI666N7VfmEN