Posted in Movies

A Dead Star and A Wise Old Man

“One that still shines its light upon us, long after it is gone”

This is a star that is dying. A star gives off light throughout its lifetime and also after it dies. The light released travels across time and space to be received by this tiny part of the galaxy as well. We look at the existence of the star and be warmed by it in the dark nights. We look up and think there are angels looking down upon us all the time it is dark, all the time when our own source of light – The Sun, is away. Rather when we have turned away from the Sun, they are reminding us of light in the dark. They do act like guardian angels only a simple fact is they are not exactly angels but ghosts.

Dying Star
In this image provided by NASA  a dying star is throwing a cosmic tantrum. In death, the star’s dusty outer layers are unraveling into space. This object called the Helix nebula, lies 650 light-years away in the constellation of Aquarius. (AP Photo/NASA)

They are ghosts of their own past. They are the light that was released when they existed and it is reaching through these long distance after so long a time that they are now long dead. Most of the stars we see in the sky are long dead. The one that are born anew are not yet releasing the same amounts of light that may reach such long distances. It must take a star to be of a certain size to be able to emit light in amounts that can travel such enormous distances across cosmos. 

In order to become that huge it must have to grow larger and larger in size. Like a child that grows up into a man and then into a wise old man. Like a really old wise man can have more likeliness of sending across pieces of wisdom that survive centuries, a really huge star can emit light that can travel across light years. Both an old star and a wise old man are like ghosts of the past that warm us in our moments of darkness with their light or wisdom.

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It is so sad that these comforting creatures or entities existing in the universe have to grow so large that they come so close to death in order to reach out to the universe. But then if they do not do so, they are aging anyway. They will soon die and perish with all the light inside them. For the time they have the light and the fuel to create that light – it is imperative that they will exhaust all the fuel and become large glowing stars of wisdom. It is inevitable that they will grow larger and larger with so much fuel inside them. It is inevitable that they increase their probability to shine their light across eons of time and space, as they are growing larger. Both an aging star and a wise old man are like giants. They are giants at their scale of existence though.

We know about scales because we know about the chaos where the most complicated processes of nature are but repetitions of a single logic. They are all repetitions of the same logic across scales. The same law governs the system at all scales. Projecting directly and metaphorically too, the aging star and the aging man are both giants. While the star touches the lives of planets like that of our Earth, billions of light years away in space– the aging man touches the lives of little humans thousands of years away in time.

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Watching an episode of the Fox Television series Cosmos, I was struck by an inspiration to write about these stars that were termed to be ghosts a wise old man of the past. William Herschel was a 19th century astronomer who is one of the greatest scientist we don’t know of. He was not fated to stardom as many other scientists of the era but nevertheless his works in astronomy remain foundations on which modern astronomy is understood till date. The discovery of many entities of our solar system like the planet Uranus and the moons Mimas, Enceladus etc. are attributed to him. Besides these there is one other very important concept but unrelated to astronomy. In a conversation with his son, John Herschel, the great scientist revealed a secret he had uncovered about ghosts. A staunch believer of science, the statement coming from him was a little uncanny. Nevertheless, the wise man explained his queer statement explaining how light traveling from the stars took such a long time to reach us and our telescopes that in the mean time those huge stars emitting that light must have died by then. so he said that these stars were the real ghosts that looked down upon us from the past. The ghosts of the world we lived in were not real and in fact a figment of our imagination. To him, these long dead stars will shining their light upon us were the real ghosts.

What a wonderful piece of thought to be shared with your son. What a wonderful introduction to the world of science where everything is ruled by the purest of logic, even the idea of supernatural entities like ghosts. This episode of the series Cosmos is a wonderful watch along with the entire series that in its totality gives the viewer an enriching experience of the otherwise beyond-popular-reach study of the Cosmos.


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