Abstruse Goose: Supernova


I don’t know what it is with these young people thinking the violent obliteration of a planet and all its civilizations is cool.  Maybe they grew up with reality being virtual and not the other kind.  Never mind.  Supernova 1987A — the “A” because it was 1987′s first supernova — used to be a blue supergiant star called Sanduleak -69° 202; I mention these things because I like star names.  It  blew up in 1987, though as AG points out, it actually blew up in 166,000 BC, the middle of the Middle Paleolithic.  If the obliterated planet had been Earth, civilization would have gotten only as far as tools, fire, and hunting, so maybe no great loss.



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7 thoughts on “Abstruse Goose: Supernova

  1. The sentiment expressed in your last sentence isn’t that far removed from the one you criticize in the comic strip.

    Interesting post nevertheless.

  2. A little bit of astronomy research might help here. According to the Wikipedia article, the progenitor was a Luminous Blue Variable, and according to the article on that kind of star, it would have had a reasonably short lifetime – only a few million years. So. No planets, no life (at least as we know it,) no civilization.

  3. @A_Reader: so maybe I’m not as hopelessly uncool as I’d thought?

    @John Roth: Not only a short lifetime but if it was a variable, it probably would have fried any planets long before it blew up.

  4. Geoff Marcy (the famous planet hunter and professor at UC Berkeley) and I shared a flat in Pasadena when we were postdocs at Mt. Wilson and Palomar. One day he came back to the flat and told me that he was going to change his research and try to discover planets using the Mt Wilson 100″ telescope. Now that he is famous, I enjoy introducing him by saying that one of my great joys of my studies of supernova explosions is knowing that they destroy all the stupid little planets around those stars.

  5. As a Palaeolithic archaeologist specializing on those “middle of the Middle Palaeolithic” people, I must protest. Neandertals were intelligent humans, and if intelligent humans living a life by hunting and making stone tools and fire are “no great loss”, then you would implicitly imply that the effects of colonial history on various indigenous people is no big deal either. Somehow, I think the original inhabitants of Australia (as an example of intelligent humans living a life by hunting and making stone tools and fire, until that Cook guy came) would beg to differ on that.

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