Sunday, March 13, 2011

This Island Earth

Often we hear of the emotional impact felt by astronauts as they look down at earth from space, comprehending on a visceral level just how isolated and vulnerable our home is. The photo of earth taken from Apollo 17 has come to symbolise that sense. This image, according to a NASA archivist, is probably the most distributed image in human history. I had a poster of it on my wall, as a teenager in the 'seventies and used to gaze at it. It seemed to put things into perspective.

As a result of yesterday's earthquake in Japan, the earth's rotation has shifted 25cm. 

The main island of Japan has moved 2.4m.

The power of the resulting tsunami streaming out across the Pacific is staggering in its intensity and range.

Image showing the intensity of the Japan tsunami, 12 March 2011.
Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

We are a small part of a very thin and fragile biosphere, wrapped around this pulsing, shuddering behemoth.

That puts things into perspective too.