A notebook entry.
In April of 1006 A.D. a young Egyptian astronomer named Ali ibn Ridwan looked up into the night sky and saw what looked like a new planet shining brightly over the desert. It was so bright, and so large—three times the size of a regular star—that it cast more light than a one-quarter moon. Modern scientists would later estimate that it had shone sixteen times brighter than the planet Venus. It sat low on the southern horizon, bright enough to make shadows from pure starlight in the palm fronds. It was bright enough to be seen in the daytime, and to lighten the blue of the heavens after dark. Ali was a young man then, no more than 18 or 20 when he saw the supernova, because that is what it was—the observed death of a faraway star. It had shown in the constellation of Centaurus, or maybe of Lupus—right there on the border—and was 7,200 light years from earth. It had gone out millennia ago, if simultaneity can be said to mean anything over distances that vast, but it had taken this long—7,200 years—for the news to reach the Nile. Monks in Switzerland saw it too, at the Abbey of Saint Gil, as did the Chinese astrologer Zhou Keming, as did the Persian philosopher Avicenna in northeastern Iran. He said that the dying star changed color over time, that it lingered in the sky for months as it grew dimmer, scintillating and throwing out sparks. Later named SN 1006, it was the brightest supernova observed during the pre-telescopic period. Later, astronomers in 1965 used the Parkes radio telescope to make an image of its remnant. The false color x-ray looks like a red and purple stone, like a tide pool creature, like a dying ember.
Farewell, star that was SN 1006. We remember you.
This entry is from a longer work in progress.
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