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The researcher wanted to determine if life could exist on planets around stars that were previously thought of as inhabitable.



Blue Star/Blue Supergiant, Type O-B, 49,726° celsius-9,726° celsius, luminosity 100,000 x
sun - 1,000 x sun, mass 50 x sun - 10 x sun, lifetime <10-100 million years

You’re crystalline and I knew that          You’re going supernova and I knew that
I wanted to see through your light               I wanted to survive your light
so I covered my body in reflectors         so I canceled this phase of the experiment
You’re young and you’re fast and            You’re burning and you’re dying and
you’re hot with UV rays so strong                your death will be so strong
that you burned everything around          that you’ll consume everything around
the kind of power that lifts you up       that kind of power that swallows your memories
and out of your reason                   and puts out all inferior lights

I remember you in 35,000° C
a blue barb in the sky, a brighter Rigel and Regulus
Some stars live billions of years. But you?
A few million tops
Your light is a memory of the future


White Dwarf Star, Type A, the eventual end state of most stars, ~8, 226° celsius, luminosity 20 x sun -0.01 x sun, mass 2 x sun - 1.4 x sun, lifetime <1000 million years

You’re the star I want to live by          You’re the star I thought I wanted to live by
This white light shouldn’t hurt            This hint of blue shouldn’t be ignored
You’re a pool I dipped my toes into          You’re water came up to my collarbones
This heat is pleasant                   This heat made my head spin
It’s the gemstones of sweat on my face       It’s a bird bashing her head against a cage
You’re the same as Sirius                You’re what remains after death
Why do I have these scratchy UV burns       Why is there light coming from your corpse
Maybe your electrons have degenerated         Maybe I shouldn’t have come here

The remains of a white dwarf will always rot
Too weak for a black hole or pulsar
your memories are cooling, dimming
In the future you’ll be a theoretical trace
the ghost of a star’s past life


Red Dwarf Star, Type M, ~2,926° celsius, luminosity 0.01 x sun, mass 0.2 x sun, lifetime <200,000 million years

Your light is the crunch of dead leaves      Your light is the bite of cold on my cheeks
Cold, your rich light looks like a hearth          Cold, but I want it to be hot enough
It’s not that you want to be dim         It’s not that you want your red-dwarf-fate
Other scientists believe you’re habitable      Other scientists believe it’s a tight hug for life
Your light is soft, well-worn wool               Your light is comfortable but faint
but no lifeforms exploded from your soil         but nothing here is enough for me
The universe needs stars like you        The universe needs stars that will never explode
no burn marks, no ripples in gravity      no messages from you when I left your orbit

A red dwarf is the smoky smell of déjà vu
Maybe I’ll come back to you
But the universe is expanding
We’re on the same sheet of space-time
And every day further apart



The researcher, with great disappointment, concluded that, from her limited sample set, the previously established “goldilocks” theories are all correct. She did not find any exceptions. She suggested that other interested parties could continue to conduct research on the possibility of habitable planets around fringe stars. But in her conclusion she also stated that she herself was done with this particular experiment due to the physical and psychological effects it had on her.

Lydia O’Donnell is an MFA candidate at The University of Alabama. Her work is forthcoming in Emerald City, Swamp Ape Review, The Basilisk Tree, and Anthophile Magazine. She is currently working on a cross-genre collection of sci-fi fairytales.
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25 Sep 2023

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