Long held Estimates Suggest Our star, In main sequence, Will burn For another Five billion Years. And at that time, A roiling Ember, Swollen from Firesworn Devouring Of elements It will Embrace The last trace Of us, The dust that Knit the lattice Of our form, And welcome Us home.
7:30pm and the sun had fully set. In that ocean of dark, and familiar landmarks of stars and planets, a satellite. I thought: This is machinery. This is in free fall above me. In the 80s when we would lay out and watch the night sky, my parents would point them out for me. Faint twirling embers. They were a rarity then. Scarce.
Within a few minutes, a brighter satellite emerged from the horizon, rising in defiance of gravity, in an unrepentant arc. I watched as it climbed and turned, blinking off and on as it spun out of the sun’s light and back into it, a ship signaling an SOS from far off shore. Unbelievably, yet another satellite, an order of magnitude dimmer, floated across my vision in the opposite direction. I traced its path, anticipating it continuing to the eastern horizon and below it, when it turned at a 90 degree angle toward the south. I had never seen one do that. I’m still not convinced they can.
The stars are a fragile constant. Their permanence only an illusion. A trick performed by size and scale and time. Ghosts in the sky.
Our sun is in main sequence. Main sequence means our star is of average size and luminosity. A flickering candle, glimmering in a cathedral at midnight. It’ll take billions of years for it to decay to the point that, when swollen, it absorbs us.
Our minds aren’t made to contemplate time on that scale. Our lifespan, laughably short, stunts our comprehension of it. It becomes an abstract. Knowable but unknowable. Unreachable epochs looming in the deep. Shadows and cinder forever on the periphery.
Light takes one hundred thousand years to reach the surface of the sun from the core. The density inside of our “average” star slows the progress. From the surface it only takes eight minutes to reach us. Standing outside on a sunny day, you are the recipient of something ancient, your skin bathed in relics.
You are also created with them. Calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, iron, carbon, hydrogen, billions of years in the making. The ruins of a long dead star with breath and pulse and synapse and neuron. A cataclysm that laughs.
Neutron star - “a celestial object of very small radius (typically 18 miles/30 km) and very high density, composed predominantly of closely packed neutrons. Neutron stars are thought to form by the gravitational collapse of the remnant of a massive star after a supernova explosion, provided that the star is insufficiently massive to produce a black hole.”
Magnetar - “A magnetar is a type of neutron star believed to have an extremely powerful magnetic field. The magnetic-field decay powers the emission of high-energy electromagnetic radiation, particularly X-rays and gamma rays. The theory regarding these objects was proposed in 1992 by Robert Duncan and Christopher Thompson”
I read once that a magnetar’s magnetic field is so strong it could pull the iron out of your blood from a thousand miles away. It frightened and thrilled me to consider that sort of power. The Cosmos is an unimaginably vast sea full of silent and efficient machines churning and devouring.
I’ve seen people address the universe as if it is some benevolent being with their best interests in mind. “I asked the universe…” they say.
If asked, the universe would answer by atomizing, then ionizing the matter that comprises you.
Existence is the exception, not the rule.
Though the universe may not be vengeful, it is apathetic. That is somehow more frightening as we hurl blindly through space.
We cannot command the universe, bend it to our will, or expect it to be considerate of our desires. What we can do is acknowledge the source of that iron in our blood, the way it was formed.
Over billions of years, as a star burns through its gaseous fuel, it fuses it into heavier elements until finally it produces iron. Iron is the death knell. Iron causes a collapse. This collapse causes a supernova.
The star killing elements are then ejected into space, carried over light years, and deposited in places it can be used to produce complex matter like the blood in your veins.
It is not the universe’s will that you get the job you’ve been hoping for, the love you’ve given reciprocated or that you even exist. But you are part of a stellar life cycle. A sentient artifact of the universe itself. The bloom in the ruin.
So, I’m reading about the potential end to theoretical particle physics. One quote struck me about the discovery of the Higgs Boson:
“According to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, the Higgs Field should either have a value of zero which would not give particles mass, or it should have an extremely great value which is likely to give particles too much mass.
But this is where physicists are confused.
Instead of viewing a value of either extremely high or non-existent, experts have noticed that the Higgs field is just slightly on”, which is not as low or high as it should be.
Mr Cliff said: “It’s not zero, but it’s ten-thousand-trillion times weaker than it’s fully on value — a bit like a light switch that got stuck just before the ‘off’ position.”
The article went on to mention dark energy predictions and potentially proving the multiverse theory to account for such wide variations, other universes having either too much mass or none at all, never coalescing or collapsing under their own weight.
How many times Have you fucking felt Like a light switch that Got stuck just before the off position?
Just slightly on
Ten thousand trillion times weaker than your fully on value
When you stare at the stars long enough they start to do this silly little swim. For a moment, maybe a millisecond, you believe what you’re seeing is true. Your heart jumps and you rub your eyes and you try to refocus them. What did I see? Why? Between one star and another, you see that there has been no change in distance or location. You breathe deep. You may be still, but you are always making micro movements. Your heartbeat, inhale and exhale of your lungs. Your body is a chorus of stirring. Stillness is just another state of movement. Logically you know this. But your mind keeps being dragged back to that initial feeling of belief. because it exhilarates you. Because you want to make a home in the feeling. Fires in a Black Sea swirling just for you.
Of course you want more. You always want more. so you are drawn to believe what your eyes have told your mind they see. You wait and you stare and you speak softly to yourself: “this is Arcturus.” It is fixed. A landmark. You’ve aimed telescopes and your heart toward it for years. For ages before you, there have been legends, poems, splendid things inspired by the light it gives. Eons before human existence, unseen, unloved, it never ceased it’s shimmering. 37 light years. 11 parsecs separate you. But it dances and you’re dizzy in your foolishness and love and it suddenly feels within reach. A living thing. It breathes. Maybe you’ve dipped your longing in and stirred the sky. What hubris. Van Gogh knew what I mean.
You can suddenly perceive the spinning, the roll of the earth along the path it has carved in spacetime, Falling toward the sun. And how we sail blindly. All of it. Ever expanding outward. How it has started to decay. Moving ever toward entropy, half as luminous as it was 2 billion years ago. Lights slowly going out one by one. A carnival at closing time. Your minuscule life laughably short. An iota. A grain of time.
And what if it has already collapsed in on itself? Arcturus. The guardian. The last gasps still hurdling toward us, 370,000 years late. Corpse light in a haunted sky.
Nothing lasts. Rather than being dismal, this is heartening. It elicits bravery.
I will love in full measure.
I will love in full measure when it is returned and even when none is given me.
You were more than A trail of blood, More than the fires That forged the iron in it. Weak gravity And heavy elements. Eons in the æther Before you came to me. You were more than These filaments, Proton and electron And the atoms they knit, And in that great Undying place, Where we will not Be created nor destroyed, May we one day collide And know we knew And shared The same space, Though you were barely there And I only just.