Sophia Bush’s new tattoo has a fascinatingly deep meaning behind it

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Moya Crockett
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Sophia Bush recently turned 35, and headed to celebrity tattoo artist Dr Woo to mark the occasion. She posted photos of the process on her Instagram stories – and her chosen ink has a fascinating meaning.

The actress’ minimalist starburst design appears to have been inspired by the cover of the Voyager Golden Record, a phonograph recording launched into space 40 years ago.

Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 were robotic probes sent to study the outer Solar System in 1977. Inside each spacecraft was a basic self-assembly record player and a gold-plated copper disc containing sounds and images from Earth.

The contents of the Golden Records were selected for NASA by the late astronomer and astrophysicist Carl Sagan, and were intended to depict our planet’s life and culture to any extra-terrestrial life forms who might encounter them.

“The spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced space-faring civilisations in interstellar space,” said Sagan at the time. “But the launching of this ‘bottle’ into the cosmic ‘ocean’ says something very hopeful about life on this planet.”

The Golden Records featured natural sounds, such as surf, wind, thunder and animals (such as whale and birdsong), plus greetings in 55 ancient and modern languages.

The inspirational message Per aspera ad astra – “Through hardships to the stars” – appeared in Morse code on each disc, while music by artists including Chuck Berry, Mozart and Azerbaijani oboist Kamil Jalilov was also included.

Images on the Golden Record included scientific diagrams, such as those of the Solar System and human anatomy, and photos of people from a wide range of cultures, as well as animals, food, landscapes, plants and architecture.

“This is a present from a small, distant world, a token of our sounds, our science, our images, our music, our thoughts and our feelings,” wrote US President Jimmy Carter in a message on the disc.

“We are attempting to survive our time so we may live into yours.”

In case we were in any doubt as to the inspiration for Bush’s tattoo, the One Tree Hill and Chicago PD star included the words “Pale blue dot” on another of her Instagram stories – a reference, as Samantha Sasso at Refinery29 points out, to Sagan’s book of the same name.

The Sagan-inspired starburst tattoo is Bush’s second. Her first, inked in 2013, is a small equal sign on her ring finger – a mark of solidarity in the fight for same-sex marriage in the US.

Images: Rex Features /


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Moya Crockett

Moya is a freelance journalist and writer from London, and a former editor at Stylist.