Scientific research suggests zero is not a cosmological constant. We live in an open universe, a place of endless possibilities. The fear of an imminent end has made us wonder about the likelihood of the existence of another habitable planet or universe. The threats of global warming or nuclear war that mankind possesses to one another increase the need to expand the horizon of one’s imagination and envision the infinite odds that the Universe may hold for us. However, in a cosmologically constant universe, the possibilities of such an outcome are bleak.
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However, the existence of a supernova with its endless beauty of colors opens the door for the prospect of another place where humans could live. The chemical, physical, and astrophysical process that leads to the explosion of a star and the dust around the supernova make us wonder if life could exist in one such place. Thus, the death of a star creates a space of limitless beauty and potential for a new life. Scientists and astronomers have observed this phenomenon since its first discoveries in 185 CE by Chinese imperial astronomers who made the first observations of a glorious riot of colored gas of a supernova named SN 185 (Montmerle et al. 59).
Records suggest that the findings were documented in the official history of the Han Dynasty that described the beautiful observation as an unusually bright “guest star”, whose size was estimated to be half the size of a bamboo mat with a luminosity that was greater than that of the moon, planets, and stars combined. Successive observations showed that the brightness continued to diminish in size and intensity and eventually, faded after eight months, from the sky (Brakenridge 102). The occurrences were seen as the wonders of space and the opening of new frontiers for life that was seen as alien life. This created the belief that there might be extra-terrestrial environments supporting life and prompted scientists’ interest and various views about supernovas.
The first possibility that strikes us is if there is a relationship between the death of a star and life. How does it affect us and to what extent? When the star explodes, it releases a massive amount of energy. According to the law of conservation of energy, the energy released during an explosion should transform into another form of energy. Gases after explosion create a beautiful form that resembles the melanin in our eyes. However, it dissipates within a couple of months. The potential question that arises is if this gas could create a galaxy, somewhere in the Universe, suitable for life. This would be a complete discovery and help expand the life and human race beyond Earth.
Everything has a beginning, and everything has an end. On top of this, some people even say that the end is another beginning. The life of glowing stars is sustained by the combination of nuclear and gravitational energy. Stars start to collapse from the core when they accumulate excessive energy or spend all of their energy to keep themselves in equilibrium. When the stars finally collapse, there occurs a tremendous explosion, which is called a supernova. The light emitted from the supernova illuminates the entire galaxy.
Looking from the earth, the explosion of a star is seen as a very bright star that is illuminated for a few months. After the invention of telescopes, men could take a closer look at this beautiful, yet terrifying phenomenon. The terrible feature of this phenomenon is that the star stops its existence. Once the star explodes, it creates a space. Imagine, the sun that has been shining for millions of years suddenly stops emitting light. The sadness encompassing a dead star can be seen in Katie Paterson’s “All the Dead Stars” (Paterson par. 2).
However, the moment it happens, energy gets transformed into a new life. Indeed, for a long time, it was assumed that supernova transforms into a planet after its explosion, studies have only recently been able to prove it. That being said, it could be transforming into a new life form, which is alien to us. I believe a supernova can be seen as a special type of life form. In reality, after the explosion forms a gaseous substance that spreads out and dissipates after some time. Instead, I like to imagine it as a breathing creature that, if someone looked at would say it looks like a soul trapped inside a special form.
I imagine a multi-colored amoeba-like form, expanding and contracting like a lung. In the movie Avatar, the tree of souls has a connection to all the life on the planet and when taking the soul, it transports it through a complex system of tubes. When the soul traveled through it, it was reminiscent of travel through space. It all happens in a flash, life is taken, and transformed into a new life. Every stage of the process reminds of the life cycle. When men run out of energy the soul is taken out of the body. Similarly, when the star that was shining in the eyes fades away, it dies.
It then either waits for an infinite life or creates a new life somewhere around the world. The brightness of the supernova is seen after its light reaches the earth. The joy of the new energy in the form of humans is seen after the birth of a newborn child. The cycle repeats over and over to deepen the discussion about supernova and its connection to life, I believe it needs to be studied up close. It may take a long time before someone will reach the closest supernova and take a closer look at it, but it is not early to dream about it. A long time before man had stepped on the Moon, people had dreamed of it. William Blake’s “I want! I want!” teaches us to dream of unending possibilities.
Thus, it is the right time to dream about it when the space topic was being discussed among scholars. Similar to it, with the topics that have been studied recently, people are dreaming about black holes, wormholes, supernovas, space-bending, and other phenomena. Talking about black holes, the shape of it has recently been modified from a Ph.D. student at the California Institute of Technology (James et al. 7). Shortly after the remarkable exhibition of his work, the director, Christopher Nolan was willing to deliver this concept to the public. Interstellar is one of the most successful science fiction movies that talked about the next human shelter when the earth fails. In the movie, they somehow find a wormhole that gets them very close to the core of a black hole.
They go through the wormhole to find a habitable planet, and they have to create the 5th dimension space while they are inside the wormhole. It was the first time that a movie dealt with a whole new concept and even described so poignantly it with the help of computer graphics. It has been so well done that the movie has often been shown to scholars. Similar to the success in black hole discussion, supernovas could attract a fair amount of attention when people are introduced to its beauty.
Death is the point of inception of life. Science, art, and philosophy agree that death is the inception of life. After death arrives, a vacuum from that becomes the breeding ground of new life. This convergence of idea is discussed in this paper to understand how death and creation of life are perceived in science, arts, and philosophy with a special connection to supernova.
Statement of the problem
The relationship between supernovas, which is the death of a star and the beginning of new life forms and the connection with human life, has been investigated through the ages. Science, philosophy, and art seem to agree on a common point that possibly a link exists between the death of a star and human life. However, the type of link and how a man can explore the strange happenings such as traveling through black holes need to be investigated.
- Determine the relationship between supernovas and human life
- Establish the unique characteristics of supernovas
History of supernova
Supernovas have been observed since ancient times. The first known supernova was documented by the Chinese and even Native Americans. This is consistent with different paintings by different artists, a project that had its beginning in the 11th century which caused many people to create homages of the supernovas such as the Crab supernova that lasted for 50 years. The study was taken a notch higher by an observatory by photographer William C. Miller who came up with the idea in 1955 on a site that was inhabited in 1054 (Butler 10). The images thus published appeared like Navaho Canyon and White Mesa that looked like the crescent moon and a star as published in Miller’s paper. It has been continuously been claimed that every south spot could be a potential source of Crab supernova art.
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However, much of the observations recorded were based on historical accounts of sightings of new stars with strange appearances, some of which were stationary, some having angular sizes and some moving across the sky in strange formations. However, based on the accurate definition of a supernova, the appearances of guest stars in AD 1006, 1054, 1181, 1572, and 1604 suitably qualified them to be classified as supernovas (Brakenridge 102). This made scientists in 1960 to conclude that the observation made in 185 CE was consistent with the characteristics of the first supernova observed by mankind.
Supernova records have been traced in East Asia (China, Japan, and Korea) due to the observations that were consistent with the phenomenon that is defined by massive star blows up which occur at the end of its lifecycle. For instance, the Chinese recorded the observation of new guest stars with similar appearances as those of the guest star that appeared in 185 CE in the modern constellation of Scorpius. Additional appearances were recorded but not confirmed to be supernovas. A total of twenty such candidate events were recorded by the Chinese astronomers in 2000 years including other appearances reported by Europeans, Indians, and Islamic scientists.
A summary of the supernova appearances and observations recorded show that different categories have been observed in the sky, which includes CE supernova SN 1006 of lupus that was seen in the southern constellation in 1006 CE, which is the brightest recorded star in the sky. Its appearance was observed across many countries including Egypt, Syria, North America, Italy, Iraq, Japan, and Switzerland. The other supernova observed was the supernova SN 1054 (Montmerle 59). The supernova made its appearance in 1054 CE, which was a widely noted event by the astronomers from China, Arabia, and Japan. The explosion occurred in the constellation of Taurus leading to the birth of the Crab Nebula remnant.
The supernova reached peak luminosity similar to four times the brightness of Venus or billion normal stars. Despite the existence of little information about the SN 1181, it is taught to have left pulsar 3C58 as its remnant. In 1572, the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe observed the presence of the SN 1572 supernova that was taught to have left the remnant that was observed in 1960. The observation led to the abandonment of the idea that the stars were immutable. This set in the age of determining the type or category that the supernovas are classified into.
Typically, because of the uniqueness of the observations made coupled with the development of the telescope, more detailed research on what was happening to determine the presence of the cosmic phenomenon in other galaxies gained momentum. New models were developed to survey the sky for supernovas in other galaxies in an endeavor of trying to understand the properties that link the supernovas lifecycle with human life.
A qualitative analysis of various scholarly findings in the relevant field touching on the lifecycle of a supernova, the effects of the supernova explosion of life forms on earth, and habitation of the supernovas constitute an answer to the question on the effects of the death of a star on the human life. The study was conducted by systematically investigating the history of the citing of supernovas and the relationship between the death of a star and human life can be traced. The paper also provides a historical timeline of the visual art created to show how the death of a star could open possibilities of life.
Content analysis was done on secondary data by use of the thematic analysis technique based on artists and philosophical impressions of the birth and death of a star as well as its remnants to establish their connection with human life. The identification of major ideas played a significant role in addressing the research problem. Theoretically, content analysis is limited to the text and information that is available for analysis. However, the chance of being bias in selecting secondary sources of text information to use for analysis is high.
The issue with the content analysis is that is it difficult to precisely determine the right meaning of phrases and words when a computer is used for analysis. However, the key advantage of this method is that it enables the researcher to re-analyze secondary data especially in situations when collecting primary data is difficult. This type of analysis provides the possibility of comparing information from different secondary sources as well as allow for the scope of research to be extended and be able to replicate previous research that was done by other scholars in the same field.
Science and Supernova – with death comes life
Science offers numerous explanations for the origin of life. Scientists all around the world, throughout history, provided one such explanation. Life on earth has always been subject to strong influence from the cosmos, which has become apparent from recent geological discoveries (Svensmark 1234). For ages, scientists have suggested that the climatic changes on earth, the constant change and final disruption in the evolution process of certain species of animals (for instance, prehistoric animals like dinosaurs), and the creation of life itself hay have been due to the intergalactic occurrences.
Life has robustly survived and evolved on earth for millions of ages, but geological evidence suggests that our planet has undergone a continuous change. For instance, almost a century ago a scientist suggested that the solar system’s encounter with the gases present in the Milky Way may have been responsible for the ice age. This belief has been supported by more recent studies, which has proven that the local star system has a strong influence on the onset of winter on our planet (Svensmark 1250).
Further, the rise in global warming can also be explained by this change in the local star structure. For instance, the study states that the solar luminosity of the Sun has been 6 percent lower when it was 500 Myr younger explaining why the heat of the sun has grown over the years (Svensmark 1250). Further, the inconspicuous disappearance and mass extinction of animals and the coral population in the Palaeozoic and Mesozoic age may also have been due to the impact of comets and asteroids on earth.
Thus, results of scientific studies have proven that there is a strong influence of interstellar and stellar processes on life formation and continuation on Earth (Svensmark 1252). More important, it has a strong influence on the climate on earth, which has induced the existence of life on the planet. Thus, there is believed to be a strong impact on the palaeobiology and the history of life and carbon cycle (Svensmark 1252).
Another research has shown that life has arrived on earth contained in comets and asteroids and planetary debris (Joseph 3). Scientists suggest that life must have originated on Earth with the aid of the spores traveling through space that had propelled the photons in space. Others have identified comets and cosmic dust that could have supported life. Another view of life’s origin proposes that highly intelligent extraterrestrial beings may have purposefully created life on Earth (Joseph 3). Some believe that living creatures on earth came with the comets, asteroids, and other planetary debris that had settled on earth from a rogue planet ejected from a supernova (Joseph 3).
Microbes can survive for millions of years and then spring back to life. Microfossils can remain dormant for ages and yet retain the components of life. Scientists have detected the presence of such microbial outside the solar system, and thus, harbor the belief that it may have settled in other planets as well. These have mostly been transmitted from supernova explosions. Hence, scientists propose that in the red giant phase of a supernova, the exploding stars eject debris, which forms the planets, and this debris that contained the spores of life settled on our planet. It is further propounded that some of the debris fell on earth and helped in the formation of the plants. Consequently, it can be argued that life on Earth may have been created from the ejected debris of a dying solar system or a star.
Geological evidence supports the idea that life on earth was created from the debris that was deposited from the bombardment of debris from the explosion of supernovas. Carbon-isotopic evidence found in Quartz-propane rocks on Akilia, West Greenland dated 3.8 BY suggests the presence of tiny grains in organic carbon (Joseph 4). This bombardment continued even after the creation of our solar system. Thus, the explosion of the stars in other planetary systems resulted in the formation of life on our and maybe in other planets as well.
Scientific research supports the belief that life could have originated from an exploding supernova and that it is through the death of a star new life was created. Microbial life was transmitted from the explosions of supernovas on our planet. The stellar debris was, therefore, the bearer of life on Earth. Hence, with the death of one life, another life was created. The debris, scattered out into space from an exploding star, created a new life on a different planet. Thus, the death of a star brought life on Earth.
Philosophy, Life, and Death
Before beginning our discussion on the creation of life through the death of a star, it is important to find an answer to the question ‘what is life’. Life is often defined in science textbooks as distinct properties that separate living from non-living things. However, some scientists and philosophers believe that any attempt to formulate a definition of life is unnecessary.
Overall there three broad definitions of life that may be followed – first by Aristotle, then by Desecrates, and third by Kant to which Darwinian theory of evolution of continuity of life must be added. Thus, the creation of something that can evolve, adapt to its environment, and increase in number may be a simplistic definition of life.
Ancient Greek philosophers during the 8th to 4th century BCE have tried to form a comprehensive theory about the creation of life. For instance, in the Hellenic Greek, many philosophers dwelled on cosmological ideas that were later read as legends of the origin of the world. In such legends, it was said that life was created from a cosmic egg at the beginning of the world.
An ancient Greek philosopher, Anaximander (610 BCE – 546 BCE) propounded that life was created when the watery soil evaporated due to the sun’s heat, and then there followed an extremely complex evolution of life form. Another Greek philosopher, Diogenes of Apollonia believed life was formed from fire. For many years scientists and philosophers alike believed in this idea that life may have been created from non-life.
Plato points out that for everything to be created, there must be some cause that had led to its formation. Life could not have been created without a cause. There must always be a cause for becoming. Therefore, according to the Platonic theory of creation, the world was created by an artisan or in the ancient Greek tradition, an artist. It is the artist who shaped the world.
What if death ceases everything and there is only nothingness that is left behind? Then with death, nothing will continue to exist. Then what about the things that life had stored over one lifespan? Will all those things cease to exist as well? It is practically inconceivable to accept that with death all that was would become a big black box of nothing. Like that way, when a star explodes and meets its end, all that it was is splattered all around the space. The debris from the explosion bear traces of life. Thus, life continues due to the purely biological urge to sustain life. For instance, the explosion of a star that brings forth its death, but the particles of life are spread all across the cosmos so that a part of the life that existed may remain.
Art and Supernova
Contemporary artists have undertaken projects that create an artist’s impression of the death of a star. Death can create life. This is a belief that many artists, poets, writers belief. For instance, Interstellar by Christopher Nolan shows the connection between the death of a star and the possibility of life. It shows how there might be a likelihood of life on a new planet formed from the stardust.
In this section, we will discuss different visual art that has been created over the years that represents the death of a star from the artist’s perspective and see if they have shown any link to the creation of life with these deaths. Artists have shown their beliefs on the creation story in different forms – films, paintings, photography, and sculptures. This paper will analyze three art forms to understand how visual and performativity art has attempted to show a connection between death and life through their artwork.
Native American rock painting of the 1054 supernova in the prehistoric era possibly records the Crab Nebula (Brandt and Williamson 11). The Pueblo Indians, who were seldom inclined to paint events, did this rock art. This must have been a spectacular event that had attracted enough attention to make the Indians draw it. The Pueblo iconography consists of astronomical subjects such as the sun, the moon, and the stars (see figure 1 in Appendix). They had recorded the Crab supernova with various symbols representing life surrounding it. This was a clear representation of the ancient belief of the tribe that life encompassed the explosion that occurred in the sky.
Life after death is the philosophy propounded in ancient religions like Buddhism and Hinduism. In rock sculptures of the Buddha in the Gandhara form, found in Pakistan (2nd century CE) demonstrate the cycle of life and death (Kleiner 466). In Hindu iconography, the depiction of the cycle of life and death is depicted and the ultimate amalgamation of life with the universal being (Kleiner 469). Thus, art has always been inclined to believe that death has the potential to create life.
In more modern work, John Everett Millais’s Ophelia (1851-52) shows the painter’s inclination to demonstrate the health and eventual death of the female model (Orlando 43-44). The painter was so engrossed with the beauty of the image of the death of the model, submerged in a tub lit by lamps to keep it warm, failed to notice that she had taken ill. Eventually, the model suffered pneumonia and never gained back her health.
However, the painting remained a masterwork of art. A representation of the creation of life attained through the death of another life. This incident is almost similar to that of Edgar Allen Poe’s short story, “Life on Death” which shows the desire of a painter to paint the portrait of his wife who was then shown dead. The canvas represents life itself, while the wife was already dead. Thus, the art had assumed life after the death of the object (i.e. the wife).
A painting named Adoration of the Shepherds (painted in 1599) by Cigoli shows the birth of Christ. The painter documented in his own words what he intended to do in the painting. He states that he depicted the Birth of Christ with the help of the depiction of the nocturnal sky, lit up by rays from the stars in various colors (Reeves 37). Then he made a light that came from the Heavens (which can be interpreted as the sky). Giovani Paolo noted that the light source in the painting was natural and therefore was presumably had come from the sun or the moon (Reeves 37-38).
Andy Warhol’s collection named Supernova of photographs and portraits titled Marylyn. The portraits are reminiscent of the death of the star and her colorful life. It shows that death could not have taken away the life that was present in the star. Death could not mar the shine of a star. Her life continued through portraits.
An art installation by artist Adam W. Brown, in collaboration with scientist Robert Root-Bernstein, ReBioGeneSys – Origins of Life has recreated a setting that imitates the evolutionary process (Visnjic par. 2). It shows the chemical reactions that undergo for the creation of the little particles of life. It is designed as a fully functioning scientific process that mimics the evolutionary process (see figure 2 in the Appendix). It shows how an element of life that may have been brought to earth through some interstellar process was the catalyst to the creation of life on Earth. The installation did not only use the chemicals to produce living matter but also evolved to select the best-suited living matter to produce more living things. The process will work over a period to produce the best possible ecosystem. The installation, therefore, showed evolution and creation at the same time. Thus, this shows that life was created in life. A life that may have been present on some other planet, or some other star was destroyed when a nearby star exploded, it exploded the planet and the elements of life was scattered throughout the space. Such stellar dust and debris consisting of life may have reached Earth and so began the critical chemical process that gave birth to the first molecules of life.
An impression created by an artist of supernova 1993J is shown in figure 3 in the Appendix. The light of the supernova reached earth 21 years ago (NASA par. 1). However, it is only after 21 years that scientists have identified the gas enveloping the explosion. They believe hydrogen and helium envelopes the exploding star. This discovery advances the belief that hydrogen and helium, which are essential for sustenance of life on earth, may have reached earth due to a supernova explosion.
Films have been a strong medium that has tried to portray the creation of life after Death comes. Many movies have tried to demonstrate the possibility of life after destruction, extinction, and explosion. The belief that life will sustain itself is strong in this art form.
When a star explodes, it creates a light much brighter than its light. NASA has captured such an explosion in a 20-minute long video (“Artist Films a ‘Supernova’ With Just Ink and Water” par. 1). A short film, Novae, directed by Thomas Vanz showed how he interpreted the death of a star. Vanz aimed to see the patterns of the supernovae and use different mediums to recreate it (“Artist Films a ‘Supernova’ With Just Ink and Water” par. 3).
The filmmaking team aimed to create something big from a small thing. The filmmakers dropped liquid ink in a lit fish tank filled with water showing how a star explosion would look in a tank. Black ink splattered on a napkin was used to create stars along with software. Embers were used to create the effect of the surface of a star. The film aimed to capture the infinite beauty of a supernova and can be considered as a cosmic poem.
Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar shows how life can be found in a wormhole (James, et al. 486). The movie recreates the possibility of continuation of life if the Earth reaches its end. The movie is one of the best examples of art supporting the scientific view of a wormhole and its possibility of transporting to a different dimension. However, it shows that the wormhole, which is created due to the explosion of a star close to Saturn that helps to find another habitable planet. Thus, death helps to find a possibility of continuation of life.
Death is a positive energy that destroys all that is outgrown and excess. In other words, Death is throwing away all that is unwanted and unnecessary. It, thereby, releases the pent up energy and makes space for newer life and experiences. Science, art, and philosophy unanimously believe that death brings life. Supernova is the explosion of the star and it is from this explosion that life can again be created. When a star explodes, it creates an aura of brilliant light. The debris from the blasted star is scattered all around the space.
The debris contains the essential ingredients for life. When the star dies it disseminates the elements containing life to create life on other planets. It is evident that history, science, and philosophy seem to have one thing in common and that is the common thread directly linking the death of a star in the form of a supernova with human life. The results could be interpreted to mean that the death of a star resembled the birth of a new-born baby into the world full of adults, existing in the form of planets and remnants from a death star. Such a perception started to be evident when man began to query the strange observations made in the sky as early as the 11th century.
Patterns were reportedly formed in the sky that could have some astrological explanations linking man with the deity. However, the observations have been made successive through different generations by the astronomical community attracting more and more curiosity from the scientific community who seek to find empirical and mathematically proven answers that link man to them. Philosophers who were equally puzzled by the observations tried to connect man’s day-to-day life with the phenomenon. Besides, artists were not left behind in trying to conceptualize the philosophical findings and conjure up pictures that could be expressed figuratively to provide answers that could satisfy and inspire the curiosity of the mind with some hope.
However, it is in the heart of man to discover a terrestrial phenomenon and try to conceive ways of conquering it for their benefits. That happened when a man tried connecting the events due to supernovas with impending cosmic disaster. With that in mind, man has tried to create five-dimensional machines that could enable them to travel through space using wormholes as tunnels to pass through black holes. Various artists and scientists have expressed ideas about the possibility of traveling through a black hole without detonating into nothing by the intense gravitational force in a black hole that does not allow light or anything to escape from its horizon.
People from time immemorial have made strange observations in the sky that have scientific evidence has now concluded to be supernovas, the result of the death of stars. Despite the death of a star that appears to be a loss, it is now evident that such deaths in the form of a supernova are not only the sources of other forms of lives but also results in the formation of black holes that man can travel through by use of wormholes. While traveling through a black hole seemed to be impossible science, philosophy, and art has suggested the possibility of traveling through space to escape any cataclysm that could happen on the human race. However, there is a need for further studies to connect the works of art with empirical evidence that is scientifically based.
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