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Tattoo Page: Space

A series of identifiable 'landmarks' are needed in order to triangulate in on our solar system, so what are the land marks ? Stars are no good because they are too common, and too difficult to uniquely identify. Binary stars are better, but Cosmology has revealed a rather remarkable entity which is ideal, it's called a Pulsar.

What's a pulsar ? We don't know for sure because we havn't had the oportunity to study one close up, but cosmologists have given it their best shot, and come up with something akin to this

Space is not a vacuum, it's just pretty close to, but there are objects floating about, and atoms and molecules in abundance. In the absense of any other forces, gravity dictates that these objects will float toward each other. For the puposes of this explanation, its the hydrogen that is of interest. Slowly, these loose hydrogen molecules will gather together and form a pocket of gas, this pocket of hydrogen will slowly attract other pockets, and produce a cloud of gas. Clouds attract other clouds, and you end up with a cloud of gas literally thousands of killometers across.

Gravity is still acting on the molecules in this cloud, as well as being pulled towards the center, molecules on the outside push in on those in the centre. Once the cloud is big enough, the forces in the centre will start squeezing the molecules together - they don't like this, so they push back, and things start warming up. Eventually the pressure will be so great that the hydrogen in the centre begins fusing, the intense heat from this nuclear fusion causes a chain reaction, and Bang, the lights come on, a Star is Born.

Our Sun started in this manner, and like any other star, our sun is burning up it's fuel supply, and one day run out of fuel. As the hydrogen burns off, the mass decreases, as the mass drops, the gravity also drops, and the cloud can expand slightly, this results in a slow change in the burn colour as the star ages. It takes a long time - like most other things in cosmology - but eventually the fuel supply dwindles. Rather than just burning out like a fire might, there comes another critical mass point, as the pressure in the sun decreases due to the drop in gravitational force and the expanding of the gas cloud, the hydrogen will approach flash point, where the force of the on-going nuclear explosion overcomes the gravitational force that holds it together.

Because the pressure near the surface of the star is less than that in the core, this 'flach point' is reached in the outer layers before the core. When the Sun goes supernova, the external explosion is enough to pretty much anihilate all the planets in orbit, but the explosion is directed inward as well as outward, and by the time the dust settles, sitting where the sun used to be is a tiny ball of super-dense material, all that unburnt hydrogen along with whatever else might have been in the Sun is squashed into the center as the outer layers exploded.

The density is immeasurable - in the order of sub-atomic densities - the molecules are packed so close that free-reaction takes place - electrons freely jump from molecule to molecule - simultaneous fission and fusion. Any 'solid' matter that the sun may have collected in its life floats to the surface of this super-dense reaction, and forms a ferrous crust over the mass. The pressure, density, and radio-active effects on this crust are so sever as to cause it to align on a molecular level - from one pole to the other, the result of this is a giant aerial, focusing the emmissions from the core and sending out a beam of radiation. As the pulsar spins, the beam sweeps through space, it is this beam that we measure here on Earth and who's frequency identifies that pulsar.

Because the spin is constant, the beam is seen to sweep by us at a regular frequency, due to the immense mass involved, this frequency will on the whole remain unchanged. Stating this frequency will inentify the Pulsar, Bingo, the landmark has been identified.

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