On to my Main Point…

March 28, 2008

Now that I’m done ranting and have a few moments to write, I thought I’d actually post about the stellar object that inspired this blog.

PSR1620-26c (or b) is a lonely world.  Situated near the center of Globular Cluster Messier 4, it is a world discovered by an accident of alignments between Earth and it’s primary, PSR 1620-26 a pulsar.  Pulsars are very old, practically dead stars in the final stages of life.  Perhaps other planets circle that pulsar, it’s even likely, considering how easy it is to form planets.  It is estimated that this system is 12.7 billion years old.

Think about that for a second.  5 or so billion years ago, a star went supernova, the pressure wave compressed some interstellar dust and our solar system formed.  This means (if all estimates are correct) that PSR1620-26c is a full 7.7 billion years older than Earth.  It’s scary enough that the light from M4 left there 7200 years ago, but it existed long before our sun ever formed.

What’s that mean?

Whatever you want it to, apparently.  To me, PSR1620-26c is a symbol of the nature of our Universe.  Yes, our Universe contains wonderous things, kittens, butterflies, Wes Anderson films and fried chicken, but the vast majority of it is dangerous, toxic,  or instantly deadly.  In fact, the only parts of it we can see outside our atmosphere are the stars, blazing away over seemingly infinite stretches of time, the surfaces of which are unbearably hot, or the planets nearby, none of which can support human life for more than a second or two.

It is as if we are the abberation, we are the exception.  Far from being “fine-tuned” for us, the Universe seems more or less designed to kill us.  To keep us trapped on earth, unable to move about the overwhelming majority of space.  We can leave our planet, wade out into the cosmic ocean, sealed in a little model of our atmosphere, taking our comfort with us a tiny distance across this one solar system.  Its not like the Universe doesn’t care.  It is utterly neutral to the effects it has on us tiny beings.  If it were actively hostile, that would imply that we had a chance… we don’t.     

No alien eye will ever fall upon PSR1620-26c, there are few metals in globular clusters, lithium and carbon are scarce, and rocky planets are almost certainly absent.  It sits out there, rolling along its 100 year orbit, ignorant of even itself.  Only its feeble gravity marks it as even existing to us.  I’m certain the Universe if full of these sorts of worlds.

What kind of Universe produces such an object?

Not one with a purpose.   Give it one.  You have an ability that is unique in the observable Universe; you can ascribe meaning to that lonely planet, to your own life, to anything you desire.  Unlike this vast, hostile Universe, we are fleeting, make it worth your time.