In Brief

The 116 Photos Carl Sagan and NASA Picked to Share With Aliens

The cover of the Golden Record. This gold aluminium cover was designed to protect the Voyager 1 and 2 "Sounds of Earth" gold-plated records from micrometeorite bombardment, but also serves a double purpose in providing the finder a key to playing the record. By NASA/JPL [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The cover of the Golden Record. This gold aluminium cover was designed to protect the Voyager 1 and 2 ‘Sounds of Earth’ gold-plated records from micrometeorite bombardment, but also serves a double purpose of providing the finder a key to playing the record. (by NASA/JPL, via Wikimedia Commons)
A snapshot of a woman in a supermarket, a photo of the Great Barrier Reef, a page of Newton’s Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica Volume 3: these are a few of the 116 images on the Voyager 1 space probe’s Golden Record. Launched in 1977 by NASA, the Golden Record, a copper phonograph LP, was intended to provide a picture of life on planet Earth to any aliens who might encounter the spacecraft, with greetings, sounds, music, and images. In 2012, after traveling for 35 years, the Voyager 1 left the solar system, becoming the first object made by humans to enter interstellar space.

An index of these images has long been available on NASA’s website, but Vox has just created a 5-minute video presenting all 116 of them in a rapid-fire slideshow format, in the order they would be read off the Golden Record.

Narrated by astronomer Carl Sagan, who led the NASA committee that selected the images, the video reveals what could, in 5 billion years, be the only surviving traces of the human race in the universe. “None of our artifacts will have survived on earth, and the evolution of the sun will have burned the earth to a crisp,” Sagan says in the video. But “far from home, untouched by these remote events, the Voyagers, bearing the memories of a world that is no more, will fly on.”

They’re no longer the only photographs flying around in space, though — in 2012, for The Last Pictures, the artist Trevor Paglen created an update of sorts to the Golden Record, launching a series of 100 images depicting contemporary human life on a communications satellite. In a few billion years, perhaps aliens will be probing both sets of images in a galaxy far, far away.

Voyager_golden_record_110_arecibo
A photo of the Arecibo observatory marked with an indication of scale (by National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center, via Wikimedia Commons)
Voyager_golden_record_11_jupiter
A photo of Jupiter with its diameter included (by NASA, via Wikimedia Commons)
Voyager_golden_record_77_supermarket
An image of a woman at a supermarket (by National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center, via Wikimedia Commons)
Voyager_golden_record_82_feeding
An image depicting “humans drinking, licking and eating as modes of feeding” (by National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center, via Wikimedia Commons)

See an online album of the Golden Record images here.

comments (0)