Escape Velocity

Escape velocity is the speed needed for an object to escape the gravitational pull of another body. I looked it up: For the earth to escape from the pull of the sun we’d have to be moving about 90 million miles per hour. 

I was never great at physics though. I did fine with Calc 1, but floundered in Calc 2 and General Physics, so I walked away from the sciences for good that semester. Thankfully the professor graded on a curve, so at least I passed as I set my sights on the humanities. That was about the time I met you. 

You were a wounded, yet beautiful, young woman when we met. It didn’t take long to guess, and it didn’t take much longer for you to open up about everything. I guess we needed each other: you needed a “safe” person to care for you, and I needed someone to need me. Isn’t that how love works? Two binary stars, orbiting around a common center in a mysterious cosmic dance. A match made in heaven. 

I meant it when I promised in sickness and in health, but I couldn’t have known how much. Perhaps its for the best that young love is blind. Yet as the gravity of your illnesses became heavier and heavier, our orbits slowly shifted. No longer binary, if we ever were. After a while you were the young giant star, fed by those around you. I settled into a safe orbit, always eager to please: close enough to help, but distant enough to keep from being singed when you flared. 

And then, 20 years later, you went supernova. No one saw it coming, you suddenly breaking your bonds and being released in a glorious explosion of light and color. Finally healthy, finally free. We pleaded with the heavens for decades, and it had come to pass. 

But what happens to an orbiting planet when its star suddenly goes supernova? Does it get flung far from home, knocked out of orbit and orientation? Does it brightly burn up in an instant, like a match flaring on a bonfire? Or does it just fall apart, one moment teeming with life, the next dust to dust? What happens to me, to us, when you burn brighter than we’ve ever known?

What would happen to the earth if the sun suddenly exploded? Apparently the blast wave from a supernova can travel up to 25,000 miles per second, which is exactly 90 million miles per hour, just the right speed for escape velocity. 

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