The date of the "Pale Blue Dot" photo is 14 February 1990, but is its exact time of capture (or at least hour) known?

enter image description here

I was a school child back then, and I am trying to figure out what I was most likely doing at the time the pale blue dot image was taken.

  • $\begingroup$ JPL's catalog entry for PIA00452 and the related PIA00450 as well as this Wikipedia subsection; "Three of the frames received showed the Earth as a tiny point of light in empty space. Each frame had been taken using a different color filter: blue, green and violet, with exposure times of 0.72, 0.48 and 0.72 seconds respectively. The three frames were then recombined to produce the image that became Pale Blue Dot." $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jan 20, 2018 at 0:35
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    $\begingroup$ It will take some detective work to deduce the time of the particular three frames used to generate the color image. Carl Sagan's book Pale Blue Dot just might have the answer also. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jan 20, 2018 at 0:37
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    $\begingroup$ I've pursued this trail as far as reviewing the datasets online at JPL, but I haven't been able to find the actual raw image data in a collection yet. Based on their categorization, I think it's possible this Family Portrait series is in a different dataset, perhaps one of the unsorted ones at the bottom. I'm still unclear if the file times in the archives are relevant to capture time, or merely some processing/archiving date. pds-imaging.jpl.nasa.gov/volumes/voyager.html $\endgroup$
    – Saiboogu
    Jan 23, 2018 at 23:02
  • $\begingroup$ Other answers related to this image here and here. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jan 24, 2018 at 9:44

3 Answers 3


As far as I know, the raw data used to make the Pale Blue Dot image have not been preserved in NASA's Planetary Data System, which is why other commenters can't find it online. You might try contacting someone at the PDS Rings Node to see if anybody there has the data and metadata.


On Feb. 13, 1990, Voyager 1 warmed up its cameras for three hours. Then the spacecraft’s science platform was pointed at Neptune and the observations began.

After Neptune, it took images of Uranus, Saturn, Mars, the Sun, and then Jupiter, Earth and Venus. The Earth images were taken at 04:48 GMT on Feb. 14, 1990, just 34 minutes before Voyager 1 powered off its cameras forever.

It took until May 1, 1990 — and four separate communications passes with NASA's Deep Space Network — for all the image data to finally arrive back on Earth. Voyager 1 had captured images of six of the seven planets targeted as well as the Sun


Here is that latest reprocessed version of image https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2020-030

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    $\begingroup$ Just came in to ammend my previous answer with the newly published time, you beat me to it! $\endgroup$
    – PetrosM
    Feb 14, 2020 at 9:54

It's insane we are nearing this picture's 30 years anniversary! I was trying to find this exact information a couple of years ago, and it's a shame that so little is known about this iconic image, and the raw data are nowhere to be found. The closest I could get to a time taken was from various news articles from back then that I tracked online, reporting on the scheduled photographs to be taken (JPL news article, UPI article, New York Times article). Assuming the articles are accurate, about 64 photos were to be taken starting at around 1990-02-14 01:00 UTC and for a duration of 4 hours (in actuality they were 60 total if the caption for the original PIA00452 image is to be believed, but this caption has other inaccuracies, see below). The UPI article has a more exact-looking time reported, so going with that, the pale blue dot photo was taken somewhere around 1990-02-14 01:12 UTC and 05:12 UTC. Interesting fact: Although the caption in the PIA00452 image says that "Earth was a crescent only 0.12 pixel in size", according to my Celestia simulation, earth should appear as slightly gibbous, with a phase angle @ approx. 82.5 deg., not crescent from the position of Voyager 1 during that time (see attached rendered image). Celestia rendered image of earth as seen from Voyager 1 at 1990-02-14 01:46 UTC


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