Over one thousand years ago, in AD 1006, a supernova lit up the night sky brighter than Venus, and visible during the day for weeks. Today, a new image taken by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory gives us a deliciously detailed look at this ancient explosion.
Looking at this picture, I wonder what surrounding worlds must have been destroyed. Even the most barren, dead world is unique in the shape of its rolling hills or jagged mountains or cracked, lava-filled chasms. All these things that may or may not have been will never be seen or known by us, but are they any the less beautiful for it?
Supernovae happen all the time, all around us, spewing the building blocks of life out into the universe, but maybe also tearing life apart in their wake.
Did this star have planets orbiting it? Did those planets have life? Was it insect-like, or microbial life, chugging along on its own unaware of its nearing fate? Or could there possibly have been intelligent life? Maybe they were just intelligent enough to measure the stars fluctuations, and realize that their time was up. Maybe they even knew for tens, or hundreds of years.
How would that affect a society, with an entire generation growing up knowing they were doomed? Would they string up the scientists and refuse to believe, finding comfort in whatever superstitions or religions they had and imagining that something or someone would save them? Would they collapse into anarchy, regressing to an animistic, uncaring state? Or maybe they would embrace it–going quietly, peacefully, thoughtfully into whatever awaited them after death.
This supernovae, SN 1006, is seven thousand light-years from Earth. This means that it is visible in (at least) a seven thousand light-year radius. How many worlds with life could there be in that radius? It’s an exhilarating and also somehow comforting thought to imagine that some other people are studying and marveling at the same amazing event as us–that we could have something in common even when we have never, and likely never will meet.
Maybe there is even someone blogging similar thoughts, over there, sending radio waves out into space that wont reach us till anyone reading this has been dust for centuries.
Or maybe it’s all silent, black and cold. I like to think not, though.
Also I lost that voting thing, but thanks to everyone who voted, it was close!