|The White Dwarf|
What a nuisance the wise men were! They had no idea how to get to Bethlehem, or even that Bethlehem was their destination.
The North Star, who as you know is chief navigator in the night sky, called together volunteers from the galaxy. Stars and planets, meteors and asteroids, and even a few black holes from the outer reaches all waited for his directions.
"Where are the wise men now?" the North Star asked the sun in our solar system, who is a kind of clerical worker in the galaxy, filing reports on the doings of humans, who are quite unique.
The Sun looked down at earth, and saw the wise men starting off towards the west. "Off to Brazil!" he reported.
"Well, you see the problem," the North Star explained to the galactic gathering. "They haven't the foggiest idea where they're supposed to be going. Any ideas?"
A school of asteroids flew past, bumping into each other and shouting. "We'll fall in a path towards Bethlehem," they said, "and show the way!"
And the asteroids zoomed towards earth to make a road, but by the time they'd passed through the earth's atmosphere, they were nothing but dust whirled round the world.
A gang of meteors flashed up, tough ones as big as small moons, and hailed the North Star. "Here's the deal," said the lead meteor. "We zoom in, make it past the atmosphere, and crash land all around Bethlehem and the wise men. No way they're going to miss that."
The North Star considered his options. "If we could guide them without blowing up half the planet," he said, "it would be better in the long run."
The meteors shrugged. "You snooze, you lose," said the leader, and they all left for the rough side of the galaxy.
"Where are the wise men now?" the Northstar asked the Sun, who peered down on earth.
"Heading north," said the Sun. "Off to the French Riviera.
Off to one side, a very faint star - what we call a white dwarf, for it had become smaller with time, and more dense with matter, and less bright - spoke up to the North Star. "I'm right over Bethlehem," he said, "from where the wise men are now. They can see me in the east."
The North Star peered through the endless eons of space. "I can hardly see you from here," he said. "How will they see you through all the air around the earth?"
"I think," said the little white dwarf star, "that if I try very hard - and I have been practicing, every day - I can go nova."
Now, when a star goes nova, it explodes all the gases off its surface. For a few weeks, it will burn 100,000 times more brightly, and ordinary people who never saw the faint star before, will suddenly see it as if it were a brand new star, brighter than any other in the sky.
All the stars laughed at the white dwarf. "Anyone else got any ideas?" growled the North Star, and they quieted down. "Okay," the North Star told the white dwarf, "Give it your best shot."
Now, what the other stars didn't know, was that the white dwarf was part of a pair of stars, and his silent partner was a much bigger star, called a red giant. And the red giant had shared a great deal of his explosive gases with his small friend the white dwarf, so the white dwarf really was ready to go nova. "Countdown!" the white dwarf shouted. And the two of them were off: "3...2...1...nova!"
No explosion, no big bang - not a fizzle. Watching from nearby, several solar systems sneered. "We can do this," said the red giant star, and the white dwarf star got even hotter and hotter, and tried again.
Nothing happened. Not a pop. The North Star himself sighed from across the cosmos, twinkling in embarassment.
"Don't give up!" shouted the red giant, "Third time lucky - a universal principle." In one last effort, the white dwarf put his very last photon of energy into exploding himself to bits.
And then suddenly, with a great whoosh, all his gases all caught fire in a glorious flash and he exploded hugely into space. A cheer rang out across the galaxies, to the farthest, oldest edge of the swelling cosmos. Even the black holes shivered with silent applause from deep in their cavernous hearts.
The wise men, who had been absent-mindedly wandering northward, saw a new star suddenly appear in the east. "Finally, a sign," they told each other, and with certainty in their footsteps, they changed their course.
The North Star, that old navigator, looked on, and welcomed the white dwarf to the ranks of stars that guide humans' lives.