Stardust and a dose of quantum mechanics

Cindy ArpOur Town Outdoors

It all started when I was having my hair cut. I overheard two young stylists talking about moissanite engagement rings. Moissanite?

A few days later, I told a friend about this mysterious stone, and she told me that moissanites are crystals that form around certain stars and can be found at meteorite impact sites. When one is wearing a moissanite stone from an impact site, one could say one is wearing Stardust. Good heavens, I thought, imagine wearing Stardust!

One of the three telescopes on site at McDonald’s Observatory

The next month, Dan and I were in Texas and toured the McDonald Space Observatory.  Sitting in the Observatory’s huge theater, watching videos about outer space interspersed with footage of current telescope sightings, gave us an almost astronautic experience of outer space. After the video, a scientist discussed new discoveries, and then led us to the three telescopes buildings, showing us how the operators manipulate these huge machines in order to understand space. It was stardust. Again.

Back in Big Bend a few days later, Dan and I stopped at a ranger station to get a trail map. Many park rangers are retired people, volunteers who are living out their best lives in a place they dearly love. This volunteer was a retired chemistry and biology high school teacher. After we shared school war stories, I complimented her on the pretty rings she was wearing and told her about my recent discovery of stardust moissanite.

Her comment was, “You know that everything and everyone on earth is made of stardust, right?”

Actually, no, I did not know that. She went on to explain quantum physics or maybe quantum mechanics, in a manner that I was close to grasping. After our hike, back at our campsite, and still curious, I clicked on NASA’s official tumblr account which said “Though the billions of people on Earth may come from different areas, we share a common heritage: we are all made of stardust! From the carbon in our DNA to the calcium in our bones, nearly all of the elements in our bodies were forged in the fiery hearts and death throes of stars.”

My curiosity about moissanite stones led me to deeper and deeper into stardust research and experiences and that research and those experiences led me to an understanding we all innately know; we are the same, we are connected, we are one. When my volunteer ranger teacher finished her explanation of stardust, good teacher that she was, she ended the lesson with a poem that stuck with me.

When I die, my atoms will come

Undone; I’ll be space dust once again.

The wind will carry me, scatter me

Everywhere; like dandelions in springtime.

I’ll visit worlds and alien moons; it will

Be so damn poetic.

Cindy Arp, teacher/librarian, retired from Knox County Schools. She and husband Dan live in Heiskell.


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