We are of the stars!

I so relate to this item from EarthSky News!

Long-term readers of this place will possibly recall that between April, 1989 and June, 1994 I lived on a Tradewind 33 sailing yacht Songbird of Kent. I have written before about those days.

Songbird of Kent. My home for five years.

When sailing at night when the sky is clear it is impossible not to feel deeply connected to the stars above one’s head.

My logbook for Songbird of Kent reports that at noon on Wednesday, 1st June, 1994, I departed the yacht harbour at Horta in The Azores bound for Plymouth, South-West England. Plymouth was 1,257 nautical miles (2,329km/1,447 statute miles) from Horta.

Horta on Faial Island of the Azores

The logbook has an entry for the 6th June.

0400 Lat. 43 deg 25 minutes North, Long 22 deg 3 minutes West. Engine Off. Still no wind but must sleep after 19 hours of helming. 840 miles to run. Wind 2 knots from SW. Baro 1027 mb, Viz Good.

The visibility was wonderful and seeing the stars up in the night sky all around me, as in all 360 degrees about me, practically down to the horizon on this moonless night is an image still etched in my mind.

That’s why I want to republish this article that appeared on the blog EarthSky News yesterday.


We are galaxy stuff

A new study – based on supercomputer simulations – reveals that each one of us may be made in part from matter that passes from one galaxy to another.

This image shows M81 (bottom right) and M82 (upper left), a pair of nearby galaxies where intergalactic transfer – transfer of materials between galaxies – might be happening. Image via Fred Herrmann.

Sagan famously said that we are made of star stuff. He meant the carbon, nitrogen and oxygen atoms in our bodies, as well as atoms of all other heavy elements, were created inside stars. Yet Sagan’s expression of this idea, which quickly became a cornerstone of popular culture, might not take the concept far enough. According to astrophysicists at Northwestern University, our origins are much less local than previously thought. In fact, according to their analysis – which they say is the first of its kind – we’re not just star stuff. We’re galaxy stuff.

This study is being published on July 26, 2017 (July 27 in the U.K.) by the peer-reviewed journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The Northwestern researchers found that up to half of the matter in our Milky Way galaxy may come from distant galaxies. As a result, each one of us may be made in part from extragalactic matter. That is, atoms of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and so on in our bodies may be created not just by stars in our own Milky Way galaxy, but by stars in far-flung galaxies.

They arrived at this conclusion using supercomputer simulations. The study required the equivalent of several million hours of continuous computing.

The simulations show that supernova explosions eject great quantities of gas from galaxies, which causes the atoms made inside stars to be transported from one galaxy to another via powerful galactic winds. According to their statement, intergalactic transfer is a newly identified phenomenon, which, they say, requires supercomputer simulations in order to be understood. According to these astrophysicists, this understanding is critical for knowing how galaxies evolve … and hence for knowing our own place in the universe.

Animation of gas flows around a Milky Way-like galaxy, as seen by the team’s computer simulations.

Daniel Anglés-Alcázar is a postdoctoral fellow in Northwestern’s Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics (CIERA). He led the study, and he said:

It is likely that much of the Milky Way’s matter was in other galaxies before it was kicked out by a powerful wind, traveled across intergalactic space and eventually found its new home in the Milky Way.

Given how much of the matter out of which we formed may have come from other galaxies, we could consider ourselves space travelers or extragalactic immigrants.

Space is vast. Galaxies are located at almost inconceivable distances from each other. So, Alcázar and his team said, even though galactic winds propagate at several hundred kilometers per CIERA second, the process of intergalactic transfer occurs over billions of years.

As always, this new research built on earlier studies. Northwestern’s Claude-André Faucher-Giguère and his research group, along with a unique collaboration called Feedback In Realistic Environments (FIRE), had developed numerical simulations that produced realistic 3-D models of galaxies. These simulations followed a galaxy’s formation from just after the Big Bang to the present day.

Anglés-Alcázar then developed state-of-the-art algorithms to mine this wealth of data. In this way, he and his team were able to quantify how galaxies acquire matter from the universe.

The scientists say the prediction of intergalactic transfer can now be tested. The Northwestern team plans to collaborate with observational astronomers who are working with the Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based observatories to test the simulation predictions.

Simulated examples of intergalactic winds, shown as green string, in action around galaxies, shown as clusters of yellow dots. The galaxy at the center is ejecting the winds, blowing them toward potential the other galaxies.

Bottom line: Supercomputer simulations suggest that each one of us may be made in part from extragalactic matter. Hence, we are galaxy stuff.


16th June, 1994

1945 Lat. 50 deg 21 minutes North, Long. 4 deg 10 minutes West. ARRIVED MAYFLOWER MARINA. Wind Nil. Baro 1023 Mb. Viz Good.


Mayflower Marina is at Plymouth.

19 thoughts on “We are of the stars!

  1. I loved this, Paul! We are made of stars is such a beautiful thought. Since I was a child I was always looking up & stargazing. For a time, I wanted to be an astronaut. Maybe someday I will have a telescope.


  2. Fantastic post and I have never doubted that we are all made of stardust. Nice to see it confirmed.

    I watched the most fascinating documentary last night on a complete year in a 400-yr old oak tree. I like to think that our trees are the ancients in our world and certainly more in-tune with life forces than we will ever be. I knew a lot about trees, including about the microfungal symbiotic strands that both feed the tree and allow it to communicate with other trees. What I didn’t know, and learned last night is that trees have a hormone transport system not dissimilar to our own. It regulates when the seasonal changes and defenses are required. There is so much that an old tree has seen in life. I wish we would do more to save them.

    As for your lovely sailing boat, she is a beauty, Paul. Do you still have her?

    We live on a Narrow boat when we are not housesitting, and we have been on many cruises (mostly small ships), but to ride the wind is something we have never done. It must have been an exhilarating time in your life! 😊


    1. Colette, what a beautiful reply from you. We, too, adore our trees and, coincidentally, Jean and I called in for the first time to a local company Oregon Burls. They had some incredible displays of wood to look at. (In fact, I arranged with the owner to return there and take some pictures and write up a post for this place.)

      That documentary sounded very interesting. Guess it hasn’t surfaced on YouTube? It sounds like something we would enjoy watching.

      Regarding Songbird of Kent, no she has long gone. In fact upon returning to England I sold her and purchased our house in South Devon close to where my two sisters were living and not that far away from Plymouth. A yacht such as a Tradewind 33 is best lived on as that is the only way to keep the boat in good sailing trim. The Tradewinds were designed by Englishman John Rock and many of them have completed long ocean voyages.

      Have you written anything about your narrow boat experiences? If so, would love to republish it here.


      1. The documentary ‘Year in the life of an Oak Tree,’ was a BBC 4 production in 2015… Just saw the rerun. You might be able to find trailers on YouTube but not sure about the full thing.

        The link above, describing the documentary, might be helpful

        I actually, have never written a blog about Narrow boating, but there have been some funny incidents over the years that I have documented in emails to friends and family… I am not sure some of them are the kind of material you would like to see on your blog… Although I can have a hunt through to see what I have. There is one story in particular, including a couple of dogs (no animals were hurt, which can’t be said for the humans), that ended with an emergency services call and people being carted away in ambulances. In hindsight, it is a very funny story…not so much at the time though! It was a favourite with my family.
        I have a peculiar knack for getting into scrapes of all sorts!😄

        If you have somewhere to me to send you stories…other than here, do let me know. Either that, or I can blog them and send the link…😋


      2. Colette, will follow up on that link; thanks.

        If you want to email me notes and pictures, using the email address in the Get Involved link above, I can do the rest, and will be delighted to so do.


  3. Enjoyed the read. I am far behind in reading blogs that I comment on. Had eye surgery on Thursday and returned home today. I just have not much time nor energy to put my thoughts into words.


    1. The romance fairly quickly disappears! Very soon it is rather like living in a trailer or caravan but with difference that it never stays still! Nevertheless, the way of life that it soon becomes, especially at sea, does get under the skin!

      Liked by 1 person

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