pale blue dot
The "Pale Blue Dot." A view of Earth from Voyager 1, at a distance of more than 4 billion miles. Earth is the dot in the middle of the bright streak. NASA/JPL

In an inauguration event held over the weekend, Cornell University renamed its Institute for Pale Blue Dots -- founded in 2014 -- as the “Carl Sagan Institute: Pale Blue Dot and Beyond” to honor the astrophysicist, best-selling author and one of the greatest science popularizers of all time. Sagan had been a faculty member at Cornell from 1968 until his death in 1996.

“There’s a meta quality to this day,” Ann Druyan, Sagan’s wife, who collaborated with him on several books, articles and the original “Cosmos” television series hosted by Sagan, said, in a statement released by the university. “Honoring Carl by empowering interdisciplinary scientists to search for the answers to his most passionate scientific questioning, seeking to share that understanding with the public, and finding in that knowledge applications to life-threatening dangers here on Earth – that’s a multi-leveled and highly accurate reflection of who Carl was.”

The rechristened institute, which was originally named after one of Sagan’s bestselling books, which itself was named after the famous photograph of Earth taken by Voyager 1 in 1990 from beyond Saturn, will utilize an interdisciplinary approach toward the search for alien life. Sagan had been a passionate advocate for the search for extraterrestrial intelligence and is credited with the creation of the first physical messages directed toward such life forms. The messages, which include the Voyager Golden Records, were carried onboard the Pioneer 10, Pioneer 11 and the Voyager space probes.

“We are grateful to have the opportunity to honor Professor Sagan’s legacy at Cornell through this new institute,” Cornell President David Skorton, said, in the statement. “Cornellians have been searching the sky with telescopes for generations, and it’s exciting to see that same passion and promise reflected in the scientists now searching the universe for exoplanets and extraterrestrial life.”