Meditation #3 -- the bond of fire
We humans are used to a world more or less tamed and ordered for our benefit and comfort; we see what we choose to see. Yet the universe offers sights to chill us with awe, if we could only gaze upon them.
Consider Beta Lyrae, which appears to be an undistinguished star some ways south of Vega in our sky. Also called Sheliak (from the Arabic name al-Shiliyâq), Beta Lyrae is eight hundred and eighty- two light-years from Earth; its light which we see today left it in the era of the Normans and the Crusaders. But if you could see that fleck of light as it truly is -- what a spectacle you would behold!
Beta Lyrae is a double star, and an unusual one. Our own Sun is larger than most stars, but both stars of Beta Lyrae are larger yet, and far brighter. They are also young as stars go, having existed only a few million years. Most strikingly of all, they are extremely close, perhaps almost in contact; their orbital period around their common center is less than thirteen days.
Streams of glowing, fusing hydrogen flow between the two stars, a bond of fire across the narrow gap separating them. Further, the rapid rotation of the pair spins off a coherent jet of the very same star-stuff, which moves outward from them in an exuberant spiral, still aglow.
Beta Lyrae's planets, if there be any, must be stark worlds indeed -- flooded with the dazzling light of the two suns, bathed at regular intervals by the warm wash of the hydrogen spiral as it sweeps across them. We expect that any such worlds should be lifeless, considering how recently the system was formed; but if there are eyes to see and minds to understand, then the myths and visions inspired by such a favored place in the universe must far outstrip our own unimaginative efforts.
Someday we will see.....but for now, we can only imagine.....