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Steve Likes to Curse
Writing, comics and random thoughts from really a rather vulgar man
Beautiful Fifth of July Fireworks 
Sunday, July 6th, 2008 | 11:10 am [astronomy, holidays, personal, science]
The Independence Day fireworks at Antietam were last night. Ashley and I had to run for it and missed the first few minutes — it was raining and they must have started early to make sure they got everything in before the weather got really bad. We made it to the cemetery, threw our blanket down on the soaking wet ground, and settled down to watch the rest of the fireworks in the rain.

A woman standing nearby walked over to us and shared her umbrella. She stood behind us, shielding us from the rain until the fireworks were over. Then she wished us a happy holiday, and she and her husband went on their way. What lovely people. (Okay, I’m romanticizing — she talked to Ashley and I about the fireworks show in Washington, D.C. she and her hubby had seen the day before, so she wasn’t exactly the silent Samaritan I’ve made her out to be.) It’s the little things like that, the unsolicited anonymous kindnesses that really feed my faith in the potential goodness of human beings.

The universe is full of spectacular displays of light and color. The photo to the right is an especially beautiful example. I found it through Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy blog, originally posted at Hubblesite.org. It’s an image taken by the Hubble Telescope, released to the public just in time for Independence Day.

It looks like a too-bright-to-be-true computer generated energy ribbon from a Star Trek movie or something, but it’s actually a real physical object out in space. It’s a remnant of the SN 1006 supernova, a star 7,000 light years distant whose explosive death was witnessed by people on Earth over a thousand years ago. Back then, SN 1006 was the brightest object in the sky over Europe, Asia, and Africa.

From Phil Plait: “Too bad there aren’t any obviously blue stars or galaxies in the image, given the holiday. Oh well, the universe doesn’t care much for our mundane lives or freedoms. But it’s those very things that allow us to observe the universe — and it’s the explosive fireworks of supernovae events like SN 1006 that created the calcium in our bones and the iron in our blood, scattering them throughout the galaxy, where they could gather in gas clouds, which formed stars, planets, and eventually, us.”

It’s a remarkable world in which we live — not just here on Earth, but everywhere.
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