Stellar Equilibrium

E quindi uscimmo a riveder le stelle
(And thence we came forth to see again the stars)
— Dante Alighieri, The Inferno XXXIV, 139

In astrophysics, stellar equilibrium is when a star's outward forces (the thermal pressure generated by the star's core) balance the inward (gravitational attraction in the star's matter). This is a very simplistic explanation, but, if the forces are imbalanced, as is the case when the star's fuel is exhausted - no more nuclear reactions in the core - the stellar equilibrium is lost. What happens next depends on a number of factors, which are extremely scientifically exciting, but involve a lot of the same words; collapse, compression, and explosion. Black hole. Shedding matter into space. 


When a star's fuel is exhausted.

Imagine. You are a star, part of some fab constellation, and you are wheeling around the sky, looking down at planet Idiot and musing to yourself. 'Wow, I love being a star! I mean, here I am, shining away, thinking big, galaxy sized thoughts, watching these little nitwits run around, imagining they are important for their heartbeat of a life. I wonder when they'll stop looking up, and start looking around at the amazingness of each other instead? Probably never, they didn't work out how to use loo paper instead of their hands until far too late in the day. Seriously, cholera the first time round, you'd think it would have been a clue.'

Then a feeling - just a small perplexing oddity - something is a little off balance. You aren't as bright, as brilliant, as astonishing in your cold beauty as you once were. The twinkle, twinkle... well, you are starting to wonder what you are, to be honest, because 'stellar' ain't it. Then, as the great fires inside dull and go out, your place up above the world so high becomes nothing but a memory for the universe, made up of shattered stardust and whirling rock.

As we face the journey onwards, we barely evolved creatures of flesh and bone, there are those amongst us who shine brightly with an honesty, a joy, and a brilliant quiet strength. They are our heat and our gravity; the outward and inner forces balancing our messiest messes, who handle our stupidity, our tantrums, and our tears with equilibrium and humour. They are celestial bodies in disguise. We turn to them when we are unable to navigate the darkness ourselves, and they provide the second star to the right, the straight on til morning our souls and hearts crave. 

Whether it's the ability to find loo paper in a hurry, to talk through a break up, to feed the cat when you've gone out of town, or to save sanity at a time of great physical distress, these people often don't know when their own equilibrium is in danger of being imbalanced, because they are too busy ensuring ours is aligned with the angels. And when the collapse happens, it is all the more horrifying, because they aren't there to pick up the fragments of stardust the inevitable supernova leaves in its wake.

They are gone. And there is an absence of light left behind that sucks like a vacuum at our existence. A black hole of memory and regret for not recognising their diamond qualities for what they were. 

A constellation of grace, who radiated light.