THE STARS AT NIGHT (1)
All through the night the stars are brightly shining.
We see their light and we ask what it’s from.
Four hydrogens together are combining
With such great force that they form helium.
As gravity compresses stellar gases;
Their fusion yields enormous energy.
While atoms fuse, they lose some of their masses
And radiate out the difference, visibly.
That’s why the sky shines bright with stars at night.
Deep in a star the pressure is astounding.
The density makes the temperature soar.
Atoms are built, complexity compounding,
Until it stops at a dense iron core.
Their fuel consumed, the stars begin imploding
And temperatures again begin to rise.
Shock waves are formed, rebounding, then exploding.
The flash of a nova foretells the star’s demise,
Its flash, so bright, soon dies from midnight skies.
After the blast all synthesis is ended.
New elements will be blown into space.
Once more the core, its energy expended,
Collapses down leaving hardly a trace.
The cores collapse to remnants of three classes:
White dwarfs and neutron stars, well-recognized.
From larger cores, much more than solar masses,
A black hole may form; at least it’s theorized.
Where even light is held tight out of sight.
Some neutron stars may orbit one another.
Then gravity makes their orbits contract.
Eventually, they smash into each other;
And spacetime waves spread as they interact. (2)
New atoms form as neutrons are decaying; (3)
Electrons, protons are released anew.
Big nuclei will start accumulating,
Atomic numbers as high as ninety two. (4)
Gold rings shine bright to brides’ and grooms’ delight.
Our Earth’s delights are made by stars at night.
Does our sun’s light, light someone else’s night? (5)
- 1 May be sung to “O, Holy Night,” an original poem in French by Placide Cappeau, 1843, set to music by Adolphe Adam, 1847. John Sullivan Dwight, a Unitarian Minister, wrote the English version in 1855. This is one of my favorite Christmas songs.
- 2 Detected by LIGO, Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory
- 3 Chen, Vitale, Foucart, Astrophysical Journal Letters, Oct. 25, 2021.
- 4 Uranium, the heaviest naturally occurring element.
- 5 Are we alone?
Stephen Baird, 2012-2023