Gamma-Ray Burst from WR 104?

Wow, a gamma-ray burst from a star 8,000 light years away could trash our atmosphere in seconds. It could happen today — or 500,000 years from now. That’s worse than the cable guy’s estimate.

I’m not changing my plans.

However, there are a bunch of astronomers who are working on the estimate in Australia and Hawaii. Bruce Dorminey’s piece in Forbes the other day puts all the details together:

Although WR 104, a Wolf-Rayet star some 8000 light years distant, has thus far remained largely quiescent, it is ripe to undergo a core-collapse supernova of the sort that could generate a seconds-long burst of gamma-rays that, in turn, might potentially wipe out a quarter of earth’s protective atmospheric ozone.

“We could see it go supernova anywhere from tomorrow to 500,000 years from now,” said Grant Hill, an astronomer at the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii. “For all intents and purposes, the gamma-ray burst and optical photons from the supernova would arrive simultaneously.”

Later in the article, physicist Adrian Melott used the term “extinction event” — HULK NO LIKE THAT.


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