Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Earth May Lie In Path Of A Lethal Gamma-Ray Burst (GRB)

Earth may lie in the path of a lethal gamma-ray burst that could wipe out a quarter of our atmospheric ozone.

Astronomers say WR 104, a Wolf-Rayet star about 8000 light years away, could go supernova any day, which would generate gamma-rays that could reach earth.

"We could see it go supernova anywhere from tomorrow to 500,000 years from now," said astronomer Grant Hill.


But if such a GRB did hit earth's atmosphere, says Adrian Melott, a physicist at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, it would likely cause a 50 percent increase in solar UVB radiation which would not only disrupt photosynthesis among marine and freshwater plankton, but also likely precipitate some sort of broader extinction event.

"You would first notice a 10-second blue flash in the upper atmosphere," said Melott, "but then the damage would be done."