When you wish upon a stellar remnant

By Phil Plait | October 13, 2009 3:00 pm

pearlsbeforeswine_supernovaBABloggee Kimberly Zaylskie sent me a link to the cartoon Pearls Before Swine, which yesterday had an astronomical theme. I might define a supernova a little differently, but hey, when you have even less room than a Twitter post you do what you can. Click the image to see the whole panel.

And yeah, I’ve had days like that as well. And though I don’t wish on stars anyway, I do sometimes hang my hopes on them.


Comments (15)

  1. Aerimus

    When I read that yesterday, I also thought of good ol’ BA.

  2. I also liked the second one with the “monkeypig” and the banana. Might that be a little dig at our favorite Kiwi creationist?

  3. Brian

    DANG IT PHIL! I came to the “Bad Astronomy” blog to read posts that use the word “embiggen”! What’s this stuff doing in my RSS reader?! I’m unsubscribing RIGHT NOW.

  4. T.E.L.

    The rat reminds me of the original Eek & Meek strip.

  5. Sharkweek

    PBS is one of the very few current newspaper comics that is actually funny; it’s always good to see more of it.

  6. Grizzly

    And check out the Sheldon strip for the last two weeks. They’re in London because Arthur is being sued for libel… only he said nothing about a chiropractor.

  7. Flying sardines

    When you wish upon a star ..

    First make sure its not a really planet, satellite or high-altitude aircraft?! 😉

    Actually, don’t a lot of folks think that saying / superstition is to wish upon a “*shooting* star” a.k.a. meteor which is really a grain of dust burning up high in our atmosphere? 😉

    Wonder how many “wished upon” meteors make it to the ground as meteorites?

    Pictures kid thinking about a great book he can’t afford, looking up, seeing a shooting star & quickly making his wish : “I wish I could get Death from the Skies!” The meteor he just wished upon grows ever larger and faster then KA-BLAM! Wish ironically granted! 😉

    Hmmm .. That could make a good comic if I could draw.

    Wishing upon a supernova then may be a better alternative! 8)

    (Wonders how many children made wishes on SN 1987 A back when that was prominently visible.)

  8. Spectroscope

    I wonder what the odds of wishing upon a supernova star actually are? Given :

    – There are about 3000 stars usually visible in our night skies, I think.
    (Naturally that depends on your location, light pollution levels & cloud cover at the time.)

    – Most of these stars end up as white dwarfs with only a very rare few going supernova.

    – 90 % of stars are main sequence stars, mostly “invisble” red dwarfs.

    – Supermassive (over 10 or so solar mass) SN candidates ie. type O & early B stars make up less than 1 % of stars.

    – Supergiants are equally ultra-rare.

    – White dwarfs make up about 10 % of stars, not sure how many are in binary systems close enough to be SN candidates. Most of these are too dim to be uniaded eye visible. (The white dwarf always is, its partner maybe not eg. Procyon & Sirius – neither of which I understand is an SN candidate star, Mira – maybe?)

    – *But* supermassive SN Candidate stars shine immensely bright and can be seen across vaster distances than normal, thus are over-represented in the night sky eg. Eta Carinae, Betelguese, Antares, ..

    – Plus recurrent nova & novae may be briefly visible to unaided eyes in outbursts but not for too long! Eg. T Pyxidis, Nova Aquilae, the 1992(?) “Neon nova”, etc … So could be wished upon as nova and then hypothetically maybe go supernova many years – or decades – later.

    – So what are the chances of wishing upon a star that’s going to implode and then blow up? … Anyone care to do the math? 😉

    Of course, the odds of witnessing let alone wishing upon a star that’s actually *going* supernova at the time – at least without “cheating” by using a telescope & looking at other galaxies & even then unlikely – is extremely remote indeed! Not one visible since SN 1987 A. Sigh. Come on Eta Carinae, explode already! 😉

    Oh & the odds of wishing on an actual Black Hole with unaided eyes? Forget it! 😉

  9. Come on Eta Carinae, explode already!

    What about the GRB? Are we sure it will miss us? 😛 I wonder if anyone has written a book about that?

  10. mike burkhart

    I have never wished on a star but I have something more funny how about wishing on a black hole you wish may not come true when it hits the event horizon it may be destroyed but pices of it may be in a remote part of universe(or may be another universe)

  11. @Grizzly,

    I’m enjoying the Sheldon strips also. I even posted a link to one of the first strips in the current storyline along with it’s take on British Libel Laws. Here it is again in case someone missed it.

    From http://www.sheldoncomics.com/archive/090923.html :

    Sheldon: “British libel laws are the worst! A fat-head can sue you for callin’ him a fat-head, even when it’s demonstrable in court that he’s a total and complete fat-head… even to OTHER fat-heads!”

    Arthur: “What? No way. Then how do they call out fat-heads in Britain?”

    Sheldon: “The nation suffers in silence.”

  12. Aerimus

    Nah, the best is wishing on Pulsars. “Okay, get ready to make a wish…now…now…now…now…now…”

  13. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Rat is joking of course – eventually Pig’s hopes will come back as the black hole evaporate in the standard cosmology. (Hawking conceded that bet.) Pig may not recognize them, but that is what you get when you are careless with important stuff.

  14. Messier Tidy-Upper

    Maybe the star at the heart of the black hole wishes upon itself that it hadn’t exploded? 😉

  15. Tim

    Just remember: Rats Live On nO eviL staR.


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