Sunday, November 10, 2013

Star Stuff

(The z8_GND_5296 galaxy, via Hubble)

"Now they have a picture of a galaxy that's 30 billion light years away," she said, staring out the night window.

He didn't look up from the book. "Huh." 

"It's red," she said. 


"That's how we see it. Because of the spreading wavelengths across vast distances. Long wavelengths? Red. For this galaxy--with this degree of redshift--we're talking a birthday of some 700 million years after the Big Bang. When our universe was still just a baby."

"Is that so."

She turned to him. "Every atom in your beautiful body was forged from a dying star."

He looked up.

"There are more atoms in your body than there are stars in the known universe."

He put down the book.

"It makes you think," she said.

"What does it make you think?"

"About the notion of soul mates. Pheromones. Compatibility. Strange attractors. All that good stuff."

"How, exactly?"

"Maybe a greater percentage of the atoms in our bodies come from the same star. Born from the same cosmic womb."

"And so humans are attracted to one another based on some kind of atomic awareness of this. Some kind of pull . . . an unidentified energy, let's say."

"Why not?"

"But we met online. We were falling in love before our atoms could even 'sense' each other."


"So there goes that theory."

"No. They just found a way."

"Our atoms?"

"Smart little buggers, yeah?"

He laughed. "What's gotten into you?"

"It's Carl Sagan's birthday."


"Our world's just a pale blue dot, right? Our atoms traveled impossibly far and long to become us. They braved stellar winds and vast deserts of existential emptiness. What's the additional distance from Seattle to Saginaw when we're talking 30 billion light years?"

"You did wear a red dress in your profile picture."


"No. Not actually."

She walked toward him.

"The heavier elements in our bodies came from the really big explosions. Like, supernova big."

"Is that so?"

She sat down on his lap. "Heavy."

"And hot."

"And home." 

"Is this what Shakespeare meant by star-crossed lovers?"

"Some of the atoms in my body, and yours, used to be Shakespeare."

"And Einstein?"

"Sure. E equals you and me . . . squared." She kissed him, then whispered in his ear, "My point is, we're all just recycled star stuff." 

He wrapped his arms around her and looked far into her eyes. 

"We're incredibly lucky." 


Happy belated birthday to Carl Sagan, who would have been 79 yesterday. Go watch his beloved Cosmos clip again. What an endless source of awe and poetry.


the walking man said...

Loved this factual but romantic account of all matter. I almost wish I had romance left in me when I read things like this, Sarah.

Charles Gramlich said...

What an interesting concept. I never thought of that.