05 March 2008

Binary 'deathstar' has Earth in its sights




From: http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/node/1878
SYDNEY: A spectacular, rotating binary star system is a ticking time bomb, ready to throw out a searing beam of high-energy gamma rays – and Earth may be right in the line of fire..."When it finally explodes as a supernova, it could emit an intense beam of gamma rays coming our way", said Peter Tuthill, lead researcher of the team that report their findings in the current Astrophysical Journal...At a distance of 8,000 light-years from Earth, the pair of stars are a short hop away in galactic terms, and just one quarter of the way to the centre of our Milky Way galaxy....A 2005 study showed that a gamma-ray burst originating within 6,500 light-years of Earth could be enough to strip away the ozone layer and cause a mass extinction. Researchers led by Adrian Melott at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, U.S., suggest that such an event may have been responsible for a mass extinction 443 million years ago, in the late Ordovician period, which wiped out 60 per cent of life and cooled the planet.

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