Stardust



If you're picking up a pen, imagining a sword
If you think I'd never flown to the heights at which you soared
Picking up a pen, it's like picking up a spade
To plant or sow a seed, or digging your own grave

I'm made from stardust
Like a planetary sun
Same DNA as stardust
Like an elephant's trunk
Is a snorkel full of water

Picking up a pen, imagining a sword
If you think I'd never flown to the heights to which you soared
Picking up a pen, it's like picking up a spade
To plant or sow a seed, or digging your own grave

I'm made from stardust
Like a planetary sun
Same DNA as stardust
Like an elephant's trunk
Is a snorkel full of water
Is a snorkel full of water

Who'll feed the young 'cause they're starving
In this beautiful world that you marvel in
Who'll feed the young 'cause they're hungry
In this beautiful world that you live in for free

Same DNA as stardust, carbonated to last
Same DNA as stardust, from a time that has passed
I'm made from stardust
Same DNA as stardust


Lyrics by:
Brown / McCracken / Wills

Available on:
Music Of The Spheres (4.30)

Details:

In my stars I am above thee...
Geno Washington told Ian to be a star. Ascending to superstar status, Brown is a prince out of thy star.
Top: 'Cause we are all made of stars... Porous chondrite interplanetary dust particle.
Second row: Cosmic dust of the Andromeda Galaxy as revealed in infrared light by the Spitzer Space Telescope.
Third row: Cosmic dust of the Horsehead Nebula as revealed by the Hubble Space Telescope.
Fourth row: The 'Pillars of Creation', elephant trunks of interstellar gas and dust in the Eagle Nebula. They are so named because the gas and dust are in the process of creating new stars, while also being eroded by the light from nearby stars that have recently formed. Given the finite speed of light and the distance of roughly 7,000 light years to these Pillars of Creation, their activity (from our perspective) is from a time that has passed.
Penultimate row: A view of the stellar spire within Messier 16, the Eagle Nebula.
Bottom: Three-colour composite mosaic image of the Eagle Nebula, which takes its name from its resemblance to an eagle. The song takes in the creatures of the vast Eagle Nebula, from the elephant trunks of the Pillars of Creation, to the eagle soaring in the summit of Heaven.

Stardust grains are contained within meteorites, from which they are extracted in terrestrial laboratories. So-called carbonaceous chondrites are especially fertile reservoirs of stardust. Each stardust grain existed before the earth was formed. The meteorites have preserved the previously interstellar stardust grains since that time. Stardust is a scientific term, not just a poetic one, referring to refractory dust grains that condensed from cooling ejected gases from individual presolar stars. Many different types of stardust have been identified by laboratory measurements of the highly unusual isotopic composition of the chemical elements that comprise each stardust grain. Many new aspects of nucleosynthesis have been discovered from those isotopic ratios. An important property of stardust is the hard, refractory, high-temperature nature of the grains. Prominent are silicon carbide, graphite, aluminium oxide, aluminium spinel, and other such grains that would condense at high temperature from a cooling gas, such as in stellar winds or in the decompression of the inside of a supernova. They differ greatly from the solids formed at low temperature within the interstellar medium. Also important are their extreme isotopic compositions, which are expected to exist nowhere in the interstellar medium. This also suggests that the stardust condensed from the gases of individual stars before the isotopes could be diluted by mixing with the interstellar medium. These allow the source stars to be identified. Exciting as stardust is, it is but a modest fraction of the condensed cosmic dust. It seems that stardust is less than 0.1% of the mass of total interstellar solids. Its interest lies in the new information that it has brought to the sciences of stellar evolution and nucleosynthesis. A fascinating aspect to human culture is the study within terrestrial laboratories of solids that existed before the earth existed. This was once thought impossible, especially in the decades when cosmochemists were confident that the solar system began as a hot gas virtually devoid of any remaining solids, which would have been vaporized by high temperature. The very existence of stardust shows that this historic picture was incorrect.

 

Top row: Seamus Heaney pictured alongside an extract from his 1966 poem, 'Digging'.
Bottom: La mort du fossoyeur ('The Death of the Gravedigger', 1895) by Carlos Schwabe.

The first two verses of Stardust draw inspiration from 'Digging', a poem by the Nobel prize winning Irish poet, Seamus Heaney (1939 - 2013). Heaney is 'digging' into his past - recounting memories of his father and grandfather digging - and so too does Ian, digging up his past with John Squire. Compare the last stanza of Heaney's poem to a lyric in Stardust: "Picking up a pen, it's like picking up a spade. To plant or sow a seed, or digging your own grave". In Ian's eyes, John's 'digging' is far removed from the honest toil of Heaney's father. Instead, John is digging a hole for himself. His betrayal has led to a blight in creativity, and Ian (at this point, 'digging his best') won't forget to put roses on his grave.


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