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This page copyright 2012 Steve Ford and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Hobby Amateur Astronomy

Reflections on a Mote of Dust

(Picture taken about 4 billion miles away on Feb 14, 1990.)

This page is intended for the enjoyment and education of people interested in the universe. There are parts of it that are for beginners, other parts are for people who already know quite a bit about astronomy and want to learn more.

If you're here about astrology (horoscopes, zodiac, etc) then you're in the wrong place.

Sfordsez: if you haven't seen my standard disclaimer and copyright at then check it out now.

We are made of debris of giant stars that explode as super novas. When a star like ours nears the end of its life, much of the energy generated at the core is no longer hydrogen fusing into helium. Instead, heavier and heavier elements are fusing, generating energy. But it stops at iron -- trying to make elements heavier than iron actually requires more energy than it releases, so during a star's normal sequence, nothing heavier than iron is created. Plus, a star like ours gives off very little of its heavier elements. During the time that a red giant is nearing the end of its own life, it will do a bit of convulsing, giving off a certain amount of material, but most of the heavier elements remain near its core.

But when a "giant" star reaches the end of its life, it results in a super nova, during which tremendous pressures are generated, forcing the atoms to fuse into these even heavier atoms. And the explosive force of the super nova flings a good amount of those heavier atoms out into space.

And it's a good thing too. Without super novas, life as we know it would not exist. To quote Britannica, "Exact needs vary among species, but commonly required plant trace elements include copper, boron, zinc, manganese, and molybdenum. Animals also require manganese, iodine, and cobalt." All of those except manganese are heavier than iron.

My Content

Dynamic Content

Pages to bookmark and re-visit because they change every day/week/month/whatever.

Learning Center

Mostly tutorials on the science behind astronomy, but some other stuff too.

Specific areas that interest me:

Product Center

I plan on keeping this section short since I'm not into advertising. But there are a few products that I feel very good about that I would like to promote.

And Finally...

I haven't calculated this out to make sure it's accurate, but I like it enough that I don't care:

If the Earth is the size of a pea in New York, then the Sun is a beachball 50m away, Pluto is 4km away, and the next nearest star is in Tokyo. Now shrink Pluto's orbit into a coffee cup; then our Milky Way Galaxy fills North America.

Last night
           as I lay in bed
                           looking at the stars
                                                I thought,
     'Where the hell is the ceiling?'