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The Story Behind The Pulsar Logo

December 7, 2017

In honor of Voyager 1 firing up its TCM thrusters for the first time in 37 years, it’s a great time to give some insight into how the TTS Academy’s main “pulsar” logo was created. The logo was inspired by the galactic map inscribed on the cover of the infamous Golden Record that made its way aboard NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Voyager 1 spacecraft. Today, Voyager 1 is over 13 billion miles away from the sun and is officially the first human-made object to enter interstellar space.

The Golden Record was intended to be a time capsule that captures the essence of humanity and transmits our civilization’s greatest message to any intelligent life it may encounter on its interstellar trip beyond the stars. Selected by a committee chaired by Carl Sagan, the message was delivered on a phonographic record that was able to convey more than just scientific information that would appeal to intellect, but also carried an artistic footprint created through sounds and music that would appeal to the emotions at the heart of human creativity.

To make sure the message had global representation, Sagan set up a recording studio at the United Nations Headquarters in New York so representatives could record simple greetings in their native language. Kurt Waldheim, who was secretary general of the UN at that time, also recorded a greeting you can listen to here:

“As the secretary general of the United Nations, an organization of 147 member states who represent almost all of the human inhabitants of the planet Earth, I send greetings on behalf of the people of our planet. We step out of our solar system into the universe seeking only peace and friendship, to teach if we are called upon, to be taught if we are fortunate. We know full well that our planet and all its inhabitants are but a small part of the immense universe that surrounds us and it is with humility and hope that we take this step.”

In the end, the Golden Record message was comprised of 117 pictures, greetings in 54 languages, including one from a humpback whale, a selection of “the sounds of Earth” and, although Carl Sagan once said, “there is obviously no best answer about what music to send to the stars,” it had nearly 90 minutes of what was considered the world’s greatest music at that time.

The actual 12-inch phonograph record the message is cut into a disk made of gold-plated copper so that it is less vulnerable to erosion and would not interfere with the magnetic detection experiments of the Voyager. On the cover of the record, along with instructions on how to use it, is a drawing in the lower left-hand corner of a cosmic navigation map created by astronomer and astrophysicist Frank Drake along with Carl Sagan and artist Linda Sagan.

Known as a pulsar map, it is intended to show the location of our solar system with respect to fourteen known pulsars. Pulsars are rapidly spinning remains of dying stars that emit radiation in two beams of light, similar to strobes, each with a unique, identifiable pulse rate.

The three-dimensional illustration has our sun at its center, connected by solid lines that represent pulsars and their relative direction and distance from the sun. The vertical and horizontal dash lines along the pulsars denote twelve-digit binary numbers (zeroes and ones, like our computers use) that paired with a multiplier of time (in this case, the transition period of the most abundant element in the universe, hydrogen) can unlock the pulse rate to ultimately map the way to Earth’s galaxy.

The TTS Academy pulsar logo is meant to represent all the great things about the Golden Record and its voyage to the stars: an ambitious journey that extended farther than anyone or anything on Earth had ever embarked on before; a convergence of the mathematical intellect of science paired with the emotion and heart of creativity; a message carried for humanity that was not represented or owned by any one culture, nation or government; a message of perseverance and hope that showed a passionate desire to impart a greater understanding with a positive outlook for the future.  

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