10 Cool Things About Carl Sagan

Had an Asteroid Named After Him (and a Unit of Measurement)
This sheet of paper is part of the Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan Archives, housed at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Paul Morigi/Getty Images

On Nov. 9, 1994, Carl Sagan turned 60 and his friends in the Cornell Astronomy Department hosted a party in his honor. There were speeches by loved ones, colleagues and former students, and letters from people like Arthur C. Clarke and Al Gore.

The highlight, however, was a surprise announcement by Eleanor Helin, who was an expert at discovering asteroids: Her most recent finding, asteroid 4970, had been named "Asteroid Druyan."

The asteroid, named after Sagan's wife, Ann Druyan, was locked in an eternal orbit with another notable heavenly body: "Asteroid 2709 Sagan," the asteroid earlier named after Sagan [source: Spangenburg]. This was a wonderful birthday present and expression of love.

On a more humorous note, scientists have paid tribute to Sagan's deathless phrase "billions and billions," by naming a unit of measurement after him. The sagan is a number equal to at least 4 billion [source: Know Your Meme].

Author's Note: 10 Cool Things About Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan accomplished so much, it's difficult to think this top 10 list can do justice. Sagan fans are sure to read this and wonder why their favorite details of his life are not listed. Be gentle. It would have required a voluminous tome to capture the facts -- and nuances -- of Sagan's well-lived life. My attempt may not have been not exhaustive, but it was done in a spirit of discovery I think Sagan would have appreciated.

Related Articles


  • Center for Inquiry. "Carl Sagan Day." (April 26, 2014) http://www.centerforinquiry.net/carlsaganday
  • Davidson, Jacob. "Apple vs. Carl Sagan." Time magazine. July 10, 2013. (April 26, 2014) http://business.time.com/2013/07/10/isued-apples-greatest-legal-battles/slide/apple-vs-carl-sagan/
  • Heisler, Yoni. "When Carl Sagan Sued Apple...Twice." TUAW. Feb. 26, 2014. (April 26, 2014) http://www.tuaw.com/2014/02/26/when-carl-sagan-sued-apple-twice/
  • IMDb. "Cosmos." (April 26, 2014) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0081846/awards?ref_=tt_awd
  • Kiger, Patrick. "Carl Sagan and the Cosmos Legacy." (April 26, 2014) http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/channel/cosmos-a-spacetime-odyssey/articles/carl-sagan-and-the-cosmos-legacy/
  • Know Your Meme. "Carl Sagan." (April 25, 2014) http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/people/carl-sagan
  • Krulwich, Robert. "Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan's Ultimate Mix Tape." NPR. Feb. 12, 2010. (April 25, 2014) http://www.npr.org/2010/02/12/123534818/carl-sagan-and-ann-druyans-ultimate-mix-tape
  • National Geographic. "New Exhibition, 'Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey,' to Open March 4 at National Geographic Museum." Feb. 28, 2014. (April 25, 2014) http://press.nationalgeographic.com/2014/02/28/exhibition-cosmos-a-spacetime-odyssey-museum/
  • Sagan, Carl. "Billions and Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium." Random House. July 6, 2011. (April 26, 2014) http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=bPWy5ta4lM0C&oi=fnd&pg=PR11&dq=related:qvr6xCqxL8ZUSM:scholar.google.com/&ots=2_7hK67e9F&sig=_NVYe_yYWMCGxI89o2M8Rm92SOo#v=onepage&q&f=false
  • Sagan, Sasha. "Lessons of Immortality and Mortality From My Father, Carl Sagan." New York Magazine. April 14, 2014. (April 25, 2014) http://nymag.com/thecut/2014/04/my-dad-and-the-cosmos.html
  • Spangenburg, Ray. "Carl Sagan: A Biography." Greenwood Publishing. Jan 1. 2004. (April 26, 2014) http://books.google.com/books?id=Z01FzDkprgUC&pg=PA113&lpg=PA113&dq=sagan+asteroid+2709&source=bl&ots=8QO7RVQTYb&sig=k3P0UR9i19gcR7BBe9OHvbqKgXg&hl=en&sa=X&ei=Rp9fU77lFoqbyASyk4CwAw&ved=0CFEQ6AEwBw%23v=onepage&q=sagan%20asteroid%202709&f=false#v=snippet&q=sagan%20asteroid%202709&f=false
  • Welsh, Jennifer. "Neil deGrasse Tyson Describes His Life-Changing First Encounter with Carl Sagan." Business Insider. March 9, 2014. (April 25, 2014) http://www.businessinsider.com/young-neil-degrasse-tyson-met-carl-sagan-2014-3
  • Wing, Nick. "Carl Sagan, Marijuana Advocate, Explains What It's Like to Be High While Carl Sagan." Huffington Post. May 31, 2013. (April 26, 2014) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/31/carl-sagan-marijuana_n_3367112.html


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