A supernova is a colossal explosion of a star when the fuel within that star becomes too much to handle. When such a celestial event happens, the star shines brighter than an entire galaxy, but only for a celestial instant (a few weeks or months). During this time span, the star will burn more energy than our Sun will burn during its entire lifespan. Such events are uncommon. The last one observed in the Milky Way happened over 400 years ago.
In the wake of the star that has shone so brightly is left either a neutron star or a black hole. Neutron stars are tiny. One could fit in the area covered by Greater London. They are, however, very dense. One teaspoon of neutron star would weigh a billion tons. If the star going supernova is big enough, instead of ending its life as a neutron star, maybe it will become a black hole instead. Black holes are not seen. Black holes spend their time pushing the rest of the galaxy around in the background.
During the last year or so, I can’t help but feel that the UK has gone supernova. We have had a Royal Wedding. This year, not only have we have celebrated the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty the Queen taking the throne, but we have also witnessed the very first British winner of the Tour de France. To top it all off, London has been host to the Olympics – the first city ever to host the event for the third time. To add to that – we picked up our biggest medal haul ever.
Notwithstanding the Paralympic Games (which we are all looking forward to), there is a certain finality to this evening’s closing ceremony when we hand over the Olympic baton to Rio. After a glittering array of events on the horizon, we are back to life as usual. No Royal weddings to look forward to, no impending Royal anniversaries, no world-class sporting events.
As a nation, we will be coming down from a very big high.
When the cameras of the world are packed up and taken home, will the UK become a neutron star? Small, but full of substance and shining brightly. Or will the UK become a black hole? Almost invisible and only detectable by the effect of the country’s actions. Time will tell, but I fervently hope for the former rather than the latter.
- Galactic Views (56) (theneteconomy.wordpress.com)
- Supernova Progenitor Found (rashidfaridi.wordpress.com)
- NASA Cancels Mission to Study Effects of Black Holes, Neutron Stars (news.sciencemag.org)
- Neutron stars and black holes illuminate dark matter (arstechnica.com)