Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

And death shall have no dominion

By Aussiegirl

The beautiful title I have chosen for this post, which contains an article about the deaths of supernovas and what they teach science, is from one of my favorite poems by Dylan Thomas. I'm sure Thomas didn't have supernovas in mind when he wrote it, but beauty is beauty, whether it be a line from a poem, or the photograph of a supernova (here is the description of the illustration:
This blast wave originated in the Cygnus Loop supernova, which occurred about 15,000 years ago).
NOTE: Following the article I have appended the complete text of the Thomas's poem.

Time In Space Has Many Endings

by Staff Writers
New York (SPX) Aug 31, 2006

Stars may lead fascinating lives, but sometimes it's in death that they really shine. Some stars finish up as black holes but, a moment before the end, they explode, sending material in all directions and shining with a light that can be seen throughout the universe.

This end only comes to the heavies of the neighborhood, those that weigh 30 times as much as our sun or more. When it happens, their dazzling light can be seen at much greater distances than before the event. Thus, early observers of the heavens saw bright points of light appear in the sky where none had existed the night before, and they dubbed them "supernova" or "new stars."

Until now, scientists had only been able to spot supernovae several days after stars in the process of exploding had begun to brighten. But the scientists who investigate this phenomenon needed to be able to observe what happens to these stars in real time.

That's precisely what NASA scientists have managed to do for the first time, and their achievement has confirmed theoretical research carried out by Prof. Eli Waxman of the Weizmann Institute's Department of Condensed Matter Physics.

Aided by NASA's advanced research satellite, Swift, the scientists succeeded in detecting a supernova just 160 seconds after the event began. Seeing the supernova so early allowed the scientists to observe, in addition to the material being expelled in all directions, jets of gamma rays and x rays shooting out from the vicinity of the explosion.

This confirmed the theory that supernovas are the source of gamma ray bursts that have been measured in the past. They also found that the star was composed mainly of oxygen and carbon, signs that the star was, indeed, very heavy. For the first time, scientists were able to identify shock waves that give rise to the gamma and x-ray radiation emanating from the center of the star and moving toward the surface.

These findings have bolstered the theoretical model of such supernova explosions proposed by Waxman several years ago.

Here is Dylan Thomas's complete poem:

And Death Shall Have No Dominion

And death shall have no dominion.
Dead men naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
Under the windings of the sea
They lying long shall not die windily;
Twisting on racks when sinews give way,
Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;
Faith in their hands shall snap in two,
And the unicorn evils run them through;
Split all ends up they shan't crack;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
No more may gulls cry at their ears
Or waves break loud on the seashores;
Where blew a flower may a flower no more
Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
Though they be mad and dead as nails,
Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
And death shall have no dominion.


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