Lost in the Stars

Forget about the slow burn. I burn cold. I cannot sustain the heat of my big sisters and, after a few billion years, I will be cold, black, and lifeless. My whole family is technically lifeless, but I am so dead that you can’t even see me. I am invisible. Black as blackest space.

(Look at me – I’m screaming into the black – and you can’t hear me – but you can see me – you’ve taken my picture so many times)

They would call me ‘black dwarf’, but the name was already taken. It’s not my fault you didn’t know to look for me. No visible light, you see. Class L isn’t quite right either. I’m in between – not black, not bright. I am not a planet, but I am not quite a star either. I can draw in mass, but I will not grow. Brown. I live and die in a euthymic state – a burning, freezing, limited limbo where I am neither wonderful nor irreparably damaged. A sub-stellar object soaked in lithium and water vapour.

“Nature isn’t as picky as we are about having narrowly-defined borders between classes of objects,” the nice woman says when she is trying to explain what I am to some school students.

Yes, I know about school students. You’d be surprised what the stars know about the universe. You’ve caught up very well, considering the amount of time you’ve been really noticing things. The ones on Kepler-452b haven’t even figured out steam engines yet. They’re still working out how reproduction works. Bless their little cardiopulmonary systems.

The nice woman goes on to explain how I am formed. How the fusion reactions in my core from the collapsing gas clouds aren’t quite strong enough to keep me burning. I don’t sustain heat – I simply sit there, cooling. I’m downright tepid by my family’s standards. My younger brothers, the planets and dwarf planets, are so daring and bold even though they barely burn at all. Your children love to catch glimpses of them in their telescopes. My big sisters send me messages through the comets. They zoom past me, leaving letters in their tails. They tell me to stay strong, to keep burning, that more mass will make me stronger, bolder, brighter. But I know it doesn’t work like that. I love them for trying, though.

I would be so vibrant, so bold, so exciting, if only you could see me on my wavelength. I would be an astonishing magenta. Not black. Certainly not brown. If only I could communicate in a way that you could understand, then I could show you what I am.

I send out my infrared light, bright as a supernova on some of your equipment. I know that you can see that. And I know that some of you think it’s beautiful.

There is nothing I would like more than to be seen for myself.

(Look at me – can you see me? – I’ll wave to you)


Author’s note: Don’t you just love it when some asshole anthropomorphises an object so that they can force a poignant point about meeting self-imposed expectations?


PS – I love writing and I love eating! If you want to help with the latter (and ONLY if you want) you can maybe buy me a coffee? 🙂

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