The Sun and Hertzsprung-Russell

We are so dependent on the Sun that in times past we have accorded it the status of a god. So it’s got rather cocky. But astronomers can put it in its place.

“Thou shalt not see the stars by day,”
The Sun said, in its haughty way.
“Compared to mine, their piffling light
Means they can only shine at night.”

Astronomers arose, as one
To silence this pretentious Sun:
“Our radio ’scopes can see by day
Faint galaxies light-years away.

“And when you’ve set, we see the skies
By means of dark-adapted eyes;
Earth’s shadow blocks your dazzling rays
And we can see the night’s ablaze

“With heavenly bodies large and small.
You’re not so very big at all –
Although you think you’re bright and glary,
You really are quite ordinary!

“We’ve used equipment telescopic,
Done some studies spectroscopic,
Crunched the numbers, found your spot1
On the Hertzsprung-Russell stellar plot

“Which shows how bright and hot each star is.
It proves you’re dimmer than Polaris2;
And in size, we can deduce
You’re not a patch on Betelgeuse3.

“But all the same, we can’t ignore you;
Deep down inside, we’re sorry for you.
Six billion years of slow decline –
That’s what’s in store for you, sunshine!”

1. One of the small, yellow stars on the central Main Sequence
2. The yellow star in the ‘Supergiants’ group
3. The uppermost red star in the ‘Supergiants’ group

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