The Personal Blog of Stephen Sekula

Double Bang

Since the big one, there have been few bangs as spectacular. In our frigid modern universe, two are still quite phenomenal. The first are gamma ray bursts, intense explosions that occur all the time and are largely believed to be the result of a massive rotating star experiencing a total collapse of its nuclear core into a black hole. The other are supernova, a phenomenon that is believed to occur at the end of a massive star’s life. Having burned its fuel, and no longer able to resist its own gravitational pressure, it implodes and blows it outer shell into space.

Supernovae occur about once, per century, per galaxy. Their explosions send heavy elements throughout the universe, and it is this death of stars which is believed to create all the iron and carbon that our earth, and our bodies, are made from. Today, I saw a story that fascinated me: two supernova occurring nearly at the same time in the same galaxy [1]. While there is nothing ground-breaking about this observation – it was bound to happen eventually – such cataclysm in the same host galaxy must make for spectacular viewing to any eyes looking out from a life-giving world in that galaxy. What a sight, to have your night lit bright by the death of two great stars. What might the people of that world think? What might they be led to believe about the meaning of these events?