In this chapter Bryson goes over The Reverend Evans Universe, which is about a man named Robert Evans (who is now a pastor and goes by Reverend Robert Evans) who did something extraordinary and had never been done before, he looked deep into the past and found dying stars. Looking into the past is obviously an easy thing, you just look in to the nigh sky and you can see the history and lots of it, the stars not as they are now but as they were when their light left them. What Bob Evans does better than anyone else who has ever tried, is spot these moments of celestial farewell.
Supernova’s occur when a giant star, one much bigger then our own Sun, collapses and then spectacularly explodes, releasing in an instant the energy of a hundred billion suns, burning for a time brighter than all the stars in the galaxy. It’s like a trillion hydrogen bombs go off at once, says Evans, If a supernova explosion happened within 500 light years of us, we would be goners, according to Evan’s it would wreck the show, but the universe is vast, and Supernova’s are normally much to far away to harm us. In fact, most are unimaginably distant that their light reaches us no more than the faintest twinkle.
For a month or so they are visible, all that distinguishes them from the other stars in the sky is that they occupy a point of space that wasn’t filled before. It is these anomalous, very occasional pricks in the crowded dome of the night sky that Reverend Evans finds. To put it into perspective, imagine a black dining room cloth, and you throw a handful of salt across it. The scattered salt can be thought of as a galaxy. Now imagine fifteen hundred more tables like the first one, enough to fill a Wal-Mart parking lot. Now add one grain of salt to any table and let Evans walk among them. At a glace he will spot it, that grain of sand is the supernova.