Friday, November 9, 2012

Happy Sagan Day


Happy, happy Fourth Annual Carl Sagan Day!  Once again, Broward College in Florida is hosting lectures, planetarium shows, children's activities, educator workshops, COSMOS episodes, telescope instruction, and star-gazing.

The celebration, themed heavily with Mars Curiosity Rover news, continues throughout the weekend, and includes a fundraiser dinner to honor what would have been Sagan's 78th birthday.

 Most folks recognize Carl from COSMOS in the 1980s, the most widely watched program in PBS history! I've blogged numerous times about my idolization of his highly-quotable written material, my great love for his part in the Voyager Golden Records and their longevity, and this year, I was so pleased to find the Carl Sagan Planet Walk scaled solar system in New York!

Carl Sagan passed away in December 1996 at the age of 62, and was also buried in New York (Lakeview Cemetery, Ithaca). He taught at Cornell and Harvard universities, and worked at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. Other titles included technology officer of the Icarus planetary research journal, Planetary Science Chair at the Astronomical Society, Astronomy Chairman at the Advancement of Science Association, and Co-Founder of the Planetary Society, the Earth’s largest space-interest group.

Carl Sagan
An astronomer, philosopher, professor and NASA consultant, Carl Sagan won 30 public awards, published over 600 scientific articles and authored or co-authored 20 books. I’ll never weary of recommending Pale Blue Dot to anyone who will listen!  The unmanned Mars Pathfinder spacecraft was renamed the Carl Sagan Memorial Station in 1997. Asteroid 2709 Sagan is also named in his honor.

Sagan was instrumental in the early Mariner missions to Venus, determined landing sites on Mars for the Viking Lander probes, and also assembled the first physical messages sent into space.  He was instrumental in establishing the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence(SETI), urging the use of radio telescopes to detect signals from other intelligent life. Along with Frank Drake, he also composed the Arecibo message, beamed once into space in 1974.

Carl Sagan and Viking Lander
He's one of those people who makes you scratch your head and think, "What the heck have I been DOING with my time?!"

However, my admiration of this incredible individual departs from mere lists of accomplishments, and into a more ethereal reverence for the kind of realist thinker he was, without losing his good-hearted idealism for the human race.

Carl had the ability to make space "knowable" to audiences of all ages. He was known for popularizing  science in a way that inspired people to understand both our insignificance in the larger universe, but also, paradoxically, the absolutely precious nature of our enormously unlikely existence.

Speaking for space geeks everywhere... thanks a billion, Carl.