One of the things I really wanted to do when I signed up for Manic Expression was give a laymen’s guide to the wonders of the universe (read: an educational guide filled with shitty jokes and foul language). I love astronomy, and since we’re living in a wonderful age where scientific literacy is expanding to the populous via extraordinary new experimentation and a very suave black man, I wanted to do my part!
First, I wanted to tackle the solar system; give a little rundown about all the wonderful thing drifting through the night sky. It wouldn’t be too difficult, right? Start with the sun, go through the planets, then write about asteroid field, Kuiper belt, Oort cloud, and everything soaring between!
I think I made it to Mars…even then, I don’t think I published the article (it was about a very racist Curiosity talking to mission command about it’s findings, so…maybe that’s for the best.
Anyway, here’s the one that started it all.
See that thing hanging in the sky? Past the clouds smartass! That’s the Sun! With a motherfucking capital S! Yes, that’s it’s name. Sometimes it’s called Sol, but guess what? That’s just Latin for motherfucking SUN! It is the source of light and life for everything here on Earth. Everything we hold dear, every plant, every animal…every gulp of air we breath and every annoying pile of dog shit we step in is all due to the sun. Let’s celebrate the life (and eventual death) of our closest star!
A long, long, long motherfucking time ago, there was a cloud of gas and dust. It was just sitting there, minding it’s own business, when it noticed something. “Holy shit, am I preggers?!?” It would have yelled if it weren’t a cloud of gas and dust. “How the shit did this happen?!? Was it that supernova? It fucked up all my shit!” It may have been a nearby supernova, but we’ll never know for sure.
The gas collapses into plasma spheres, eventually being triggered by something (say, tidal forces, rotation, and supernova jizz) into becoming a protostar. And here’s where is gets a little fucked up. Remember Charlotte’s Web? Ever see what Barn Spider babies do to it’s mother?
The same thing happened to the molecular cloud that housed our sun. They basically ate their mother After it and it’s siblings lit up by compressing hydrogen to the point where temperatures in the core ignited solar fusion, the siblings went their own separate ways. Some couldn’t get out of there fast enough and were flung out of the system. Others paired up and moved on. Our sun decided to take it’s planetary material and do it’s own thing. They never stayed in contact. To this day, we have no idea where the sun’s siblings are.
The sun had it’s turbulent times, raging like a teenager does. It took it out on it’s new friends, the planets, bet eventually calmed down after a few billion years. At the moment, it burns contently, throwing little tantrums every now and again, but nothing like in the past. It’s settling into a routine where it gets more and more pissed every eleven years or so during it’s Solar Maximum, and calms down during it’s Solar Minimum. We can only assume it’s the space taxes causing stress or something.
As life developed on Earth, and cognitive thinking progressed, the Sun became something more. It knew what it was, but to early humans, it was ‘the big scary bright thing in the sky’. Thus it became a GOD. Containing 99.86% of the mass of the solar system, and providing the elements on life on Earth (fucking up 7 other planets and numerous moons, but it doesn’t like to talk about them) it had no problem with this title. After all, why not? Even at 1 AU (astronomical unit = distance from Earth to the Sun…we weren’t imaginative…) it provided enough energy that a slight tilt in the Earth’s axis allowed it to collect more heat in that area. It could also justify the distance, and it’s greatness, by saying, “One flick of my finger and the world as you know it would be gone!”
Eventually, humans learned that the Sun wasn’t a god and moved on to invisible old men who play in the mud.
People even found that the sun had blemishes. Cooler areas called ‘sunspots’ (again, science is not very creative) appear on the Sun’s surface, usually caused by intense magnetic energy or after a CME (coronal mass ejection). How did we find this out? By staring directly into the fucking sun. Well, at first. Eventually they wised up and used telescopes to produce a projection like device that allowed them to observe the sun’s light without turning their eyes into raisins like something out of an episode of Rocco’s Modern Life.
And now we know quite a bit about the Sun’s dirty secrets (more than I could write anyway). We know it’s not yellow like it pretends to be. It can’t hide the fact that it’s white (why do I feel racist typing that?). It has Differential Rotation, meaning that parts of it spin faster than other parts. And we know about the Solar Wind. Yes, the Sun let’s out wind…all the time. It’s not a nice house guest.
Eventually, as it gets older, it’s going to do what most aging men do…puff up despite being out of fuel. As it’s hydrogen burns up, it’s enter it’s Red Giant phase. Big man will destroy everything up to Mars (though some people think that the Earth might move it’s orbit when this happens…I doubt it though) and push away all it’s other friends. Basically, the sun becomes an asshole.
Finally, it gives up and gives into the fact that it’s not as young as it used to be. It’ll get rid of it’s atmosphere and give into gravity. Since there is no sofa big enough, the Sun will collapse in on itself, becoming a White Dwarf. It doesn’t have enough mass to become something cool like a Neutron Star or a Black hole, thought it wishes it did. Stars big enough, like the Sun’s possible daddy, put the ol’ shotgun in their mouth and blow themselves the fuck up.
It’ll only be as big as the Earth, but dense. Neil deGrasse Tyson described a Pulsar’s mass as ‘a herd of 50 million elephants shoved inside a thimble’. A White Dwarf won’t be quite that dense, but it gives you an idea of how much matter is shoved into such a tiny space (remember 99.98% of the system’s mass, some burned away, some puffed off, but still a lot left).
At it’s very end, when it’s cooled off significantly, the Sun will become a Black Dwarf. At least we think. Like thinking about your babysitter’s chest at age 90, it’s not even on a scientist’s mind. Since the creation of the Universe, there hasn’t been enough time for a Main Sequence star to cool down to the point of being a Black Dwarf. At lease that’s what math says. Are you going to fuck with math?
Then, that’s it. Our poor corpse of a sun will be so condensed and cooled that the carbon within will crystallize. It will become a floating diamond. Unlike previously, when we thought the Sun was a god, this will become a humbled, more relatable star. How?