Adam Goes Supernova (plus a Health Update)

Crab Nebula | Image Credit: Adam Brown

A Type II Supernova occurs when a massive star uses up all of it's hydrogen and helium fuel. Because it is so massive, it has enough pressure to start fusing the left-over carbon into heavier elements. These elements build up in layers around the core of the star until the atoms in the core begin to fuse into iron. Instead of releasing energy, fusing iron uses energy. The star finally can't take it anymore and collapses in on itself. The outer parts of the star bounce of the core in a fantastic explosion that creates even heavier elements and spews them into space creating beautiful clouds of dust and gas like the Crab Nebula above.

I kind of feel the same way. I've had so many health issues that I feel like the core of a star about to explode. Layers and layers of heavy elements stacked on top of me, squishing me down until I can't take it anymore.

Don't get me wrong. I've made a lot of progress and I'm thankful for that. Still, this has been one of the most frustrating experiences of my life. Physical therapy has helped me learn some tricks to keep my balance and has made me slightly less sensitive to dizzy spells. My daily life, though, is still filled with motion sickness, vomiting, headaches, and stumbling around. It takes a toll.

I can't do many of the things I used to enjoy. I like to cycle and was so excited to finally get a new bicycle after my last one was stolen. It's still in the box because the dizziness started before I got a chance to ride it. I can't drive and had to sell my car. I loved my car. I almost cried when we left it behind. I'm really into photography. I even had a show at a cafe in San Francisco several years ago. Now, it's hard for me to go anywhere and there's only so many photos I can take of my backyard. I love astronomy, but I can't move my telescope by myself.

Layers and layers of heavy elements bearing down on me.

When a star finally explodes as a supernova, it's an act of destruction but also an act of creation. Those heavy elements like gold, platinum, oxygen, and titanium can only be created in a supernova. In this way, supernovas seed the galaxy with the building blocks of everything we see around us, including ourselves. This is why Carl Sagan said, "We are all made of star stuff."

I guess I'm in the exploding/creating stage, trying to put my life back together from a bunch of little pieces. The pieces I have now aren't the same as what I had before, so I have to find new ways to fit them together.

I stumbled on a new way to pursue two of my favorite hobbies: astronomy and photography. Since I can't manage my own telescope very well (and the light pollution in Houston is horrible), I'm using the telescopes at (if you aren't familiar with Slooh, you should check them out. They often have free online events when something interesting is happening, like an eclipse or meteor shower). They have two observatories: one in Chile and the other in the Canary Islands. I've enjoyed using their telescopes to look at our amazing universe. They also let me take photos of what I am looking at. I can download the image AND the raw image files for the RGB and Luminance channels. This means that I can process the images to bring out colors and details that you wouldn't normally see. This type of image processing is new to me, and the learning curve seems to be steep, but it's something new for me to learn and so far it's been really fun.

I've been photographing Jupiter over several nights, trying to get the Great Red Spot facing us. I finally got it.

The first photo is before processing. The one on the right is after. The colors are obviously exaggerated, but the GRS looks great and I was even able to tease out two of the moons that didn't show up in the original. (Click on the images to enlarge them in a new window.)

Image Credit: Adam Brown

Image Credit: Adam Brown

Here's another one of Jupiter from last week (you can tell this is an early attempt at processing):

Image Credit: Adam Brown

The Andromeda Galaxy:

Andromeda Galaxy | Image Credit: Adam Brown

The Moon:


And the Crab Nebula at the top of the page. If you know me at all, you can imagine how geeked out I am about this. It's been a lot of fun and gives me something I can do.

Health Update:

I started a new medicine to prevent migraines. The last one didn't work out so well, so we'll see how this goes. So far, it seems to have increased my dizziness (which is, of course, one of the side effects). It's the kind of drug that you have to ramp up the dosage and I'm on the first week of the full dose, so I'm hoping the side effect fades away. So far, it hasn't done a very good job of preventing migraines.

I'm still doing my vestibular exercises and working on my balance. Slow-going. I get crazy dizzy spells out of the blue that might last for just a second but make me vomit. I have to move slowly to prevent this. If you want an idea of what I'm going through, try this little test:

  1. First, find something just over one of your shoulders that you can see clearly.
  2. Then, you will focus on my name below.
  3. Then, you will move your eyes toward the direction of the object you chose in step 1 without moving your head and find something to focus on.
  4. Then, you will turn your head so that your head is facing whatever you are focusing on.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until your head is turned far enough to look at whatever you wanted to look at.

Ready? Go!


How much fun was that? I have to control my eyes like that to move around without losing my lunch. I'm getting better at it with practice, but it's exhausting.

All of my other health issues are holding steady.

If you are interested in astronomy, the Geminid meteor shower will be on the night of December 13. That's a Saturday night, so if you have clear skies it's a good excuse to stay up late, snuggle up outside with your favorite hot beverage and significant other, and watch for meteors. The moon will interfere a bit, so the farther away from city lights you can get, the better. Or, you can watch it on

Finally, if you are interested in supporting my new astrophotography hobby, you can donate to help cover my Slooh membership cost. I'm on a fixed income and the Slooh membership is a luxury. I've already raised enough for three months of telescope use for my birthday (thank you so much to everyone who donated!), but if you'd like to help me extend beyond that I'd be grateful. I'll even take requests for what you'd like me to image :)


Creative Commons License
Works on this page credited to Adam Brown are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.