Scorched rock floating through empty space beholden to cold dispassionate forces for near eternity.

Observations of the star “V 391 Pegasi b” have revealed that a planet circling close to its star, like say, Earth, is not necessarily doomed to being swallowed whole when its star expands and goes “red-giant” in old age.

Quote: “Stars such as our own expand into red giants in their old age, engulfing nearby planets. Now a planet has been sighted circling close to V 391 Pegasi, a star that has gone through the red-giant phase to become what is known as a hot B-type subdwarf. The planet, it seems, survived this process.”

That last part is what’s interesting. In finding a planet around a star so old and far along its path to red-gianthood, a first, the implication is a glimmer of hope for our own planet’s survival, 5 billion years or so from now when we will shake hands with our own red giant, Sol 2.0. Of course, “survival” in this context is a silly sort of word because though the actual ground beneath our feet might not be vaporized and molecularly mingled with our sun, there won’t be any feet at that point to appreciate the solid footing. Which is simply to say there wont be any “survivors” in terms of life as we know it. 

I can hear you asking- “If our civilization is headed for a nasty and ultimately fatal sunburn regardless then why exactly are the implications so interesting? Scorched rock floating through empty space beholden to cold dispassionate forces for near eternity is interesting? Further more,” You continue, a bit snarkily for my liking, “If there is no mind left to be interested then surely the term ‘interesting’ ceases to apply?”

True enough that we won’t be around to see how it shakes out, but honestly… do you think we’ll be around 5 billion years from now, red-giant or no? Hahaha. Fat chance. In any case it’s not the prospect of human survival on a scorched Earth which interests me… quite the opposite. These observations essentially hint at a possible second option for our eternal rest. Previously cremation was the only game in town, now we have the prospect of burial as well.

Personally, in terms of my own meat-sack, I will opt for, nay, insist on, cremation. But for the remains of human civilization at large I think the prospect of burial is a happy one, and for a couple of reasons-

1) “Life” does not equal “humanity.” Extremophiles may yet survive on a scorched Earth, and perhaps long enough even to evolve convertibles and ray-bans and sun-block.

2) It would be a damn shame if another race of sentient beings, blind to their own origins and terrified at the apparent lifelessness of space, caught some lingering radio signals and came looking for the source, only to find a big fat nothing. They might be tempted to attribute C-span broadcasts and Who’s the Boss re-runs to the lips of Gods. That at least, I’d like to spare them.

The truth is attaching significance to a mortal life is difficult enough, to your own tiny place in a mortal civilization even more so. But finding a way to soldier on when you know every last scrap of evidence that humanity ever existed will be vaporized? Well that’s just fucking unreasonable.


P.S. the image which accompanies this post was adapted from the first plate of The Outline of Science, A Plain Story Simply Told from 1922, which is available at

09.18. filed under: humanity. observations. space. 1