2354: Stellar Evolution
Title text: It may remain in equilibrium for some time, slowly growing, and then suddenly become significantly redder.
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This is a pun on the main sequence, the continuous and distinctive band of stars that appear on Hertzsprung–Russell diagrams. Stars on this band are known as main-sequence stars. These are the most numerous stars in the universe, and include the Earth's Sun. The main sequence forms a major part of a star's life cycle, with smaller stars spending more time on it, where they transform hydrogen to helium via nuclear fusion to generate energy and sustain themselves.
Miss Lenhart starts off apparently describing the main sequence. However, she veers off into the history of Maine, the most northeastern of the 48 contiguous US states. She mentions the separation of Maine from Massachusetts and its lobster fishing industry, similar to how, soon after the beginning of their lifespans, stars evolve from early stages (like T-Tauri stars) and go onto the main sequence, where they become stable and stay for a long time. She makes a play between "main" and the U.S. state of "Maine", which are homophones. The allusion to stars might also be a reference to the representation of individual states as stars on the canton of the US flag.
The title text puns on either the state or the star slowly growing for a long time, before suddenly becoming "redder". In the case of the state, the population of Maine has been slowly but steadily growing over the last century, increasing from about 700,000 in 1900 to about 1,350,000 in 2020. Similarly, stars with a mass of 0.6–10 M☉ slowly grow while they are on the main sequence, then increase in size and leave the main sequence in the subgiant phase, before suddenly becoming red giants.
In American politics, "red" most recently refers to the Republican party (in multiple decades before 2001 they were blue and Democrats were red). As Maine has tended towards voting for that party (half the state voted for Trump in 2016) for recent presidential elections, it is said to have become "redder". Meanwhile, a main sequence star transitions eventually into a red giant, also becoming "redder". Alternatively, the color change could refer to lobsters; when one is cooked, it turns from a bluish-green to a bright red-orange. "Red" is unfortunately also used in the derogatory terms "rednecks" for rural lower income folks (Maine is a predominantly rural, lower income state), and "redskins" for indigenous folks (discussion of indigenous empowerment has been rising in Maine), and is the color used by a large well-known national street gang (not sure how to check this one).
- [Miss Lenhart stands in front of a chalkboard. On the board are squiggly lines of text and a series of growing circles]
- Miss Lenhart: After a star begins fusing hydrogen, it may reach a stable equilibrium in which it separates from Massachusetts and develops a thriving lobster industry.
- Miss Lenhart: This is known as the Maine Sequence.
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