3 THE REVEREND EVANS'S UNIVERSE
When the skies are clear and the Moon is not too bright, the Reverend Robert Evans, a quiet and cheerful man, lugs a bulky telescope onto the back deck of his home in the Blue Mountains of Australia, about fifty miles west of Sydney, and does an extraordinary thing. He looks deep into the past and finds dying stars.
Looking into the past is of course the easy part. Glance at the night sky and what you see is history and lots of it—the stars not as they are now but as they were when their light left them. For all we know, the North Star, our faithful companion, might actually have burned out last January or in 1854 or at any time since the early fourteenth century and news of it just hasn't reached us yet. The best we can say—can ever say—is that it was still burning on this date 680 years ago. Stars die all the time. What Bob Evans does better than anyone else who has ever tried is spot these moments of celestial farewell.
By day, Evans is a kindly and now semiretired minister in the Uniting Church in Australia, who does a bit of freelance work and researches the history of nineteenth-century religious movements. But by night he is, in his unassuming way, a titan of the skies. He hunts supernovae.