view of the heavens

The Reach of Our Senses

The news that the Voyager Spacecraft has left the solar system and entered interstellar space fills me with happiness. Launched in 1977 – the year I was born – this little tendril of technology has extended our senses to the planets and now to the edge of our celestial neighborhood. You can actually hear a change in pitch from Voyager’s sensors as it passes the interstellar boundary. It senses, and communicates.


voyager-1-blue-movieThe medium shapes the message, be it a paint brush, a film camera, a robotic tripod, or a 1970s spacecraft. This movie of Jupiter was taken with Voyager’s primitive digital camera as it approached the gas giant, beamed back to Earth by “wireless,” then stitched into a movie. Seen up close over a period of 60 days, the gas giant comes alive.

The rough nature of the image puts me in mind of early experiments in motion pictures. The resonance with the Georges Méliès film A Trip to the Moon is striking, but this is unmistakably a late twentieth century creation. A technological moment crystalizes.