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(News.com.au)   A gigantic lethal gamma-ray burst may soon hit earth. HULK SMASH   (news.com.au) divider line 109
    More: Scary, gamma-ray, Wolf-Rayet, supernovas, light-years, gamma-ray bursts, The Incredible Hulk, radiation  
•       •       •

8092 clicks; posted to Geek » on 28 May 2013 at 10:54 AM (2 years ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2013-05-28 03:23:25 AM  
Or in 500,000 years.  Or never.  We'll only know after it happens and our skin sloughs off.
 
2013-05-28 09:20:43 AM  
ll-media.tmz.com

Heeeeeyyyy!!!
 
2013-05-28 09:23:35 AM  
This is one of my big fears.
 
2013-05-28 09:26:08 AM  
"We could see it go supernova anywhere from tomorrow to 500,000 years from now"
It's 8,000 light years away. It could have already happened as far as we know.
 
2013-05-28 09:30:04 AM  

simplicimus: "We could see it go supernova anywhere from tomorrow to 500,000 years from now"
It's 8,000 light years away. It could have already happened as far as we know.


www.coldbacon.com
 
2013-05-28 09:30:40 AM  
Astronomer here, a few friends work on gamma-ray bursts.  My understanding from them is no one seriously thinks this is going to happen "soon," and with this star they think its axis isn't pointing towards us even if it did go supernova/ produced a GRB when it did.

But that's not so doom and gloom, is it?
 
2013-05-28 09:31:16 AM  
If only we had some kind of sphere of magnetic energy that could shield us from extraterrestrial radiation. If only.
 
2013-05-28 09:33:57 AM  

Andromeda: Astronomer here, a few friends work on gamma-ray bursts.  My understanding from them is no one seriously thinks this is going to happen "soon," and with this star they think its axis isn't pointing towards us even if it did go supernova/ produced a GRB when it did.

But that's not so doom and gloom, is it?


And what about cosmic pies, Mr. Smart Guy?!

farm4.staticflickr.com
/kliban kick
 
2013-05-28 09:38:05 AM  
From another, better article:

However, Peter Tuthill, an astronomer at the University of Sydney in Australia, and colleagues, first found WR 104 in 1998 via an advanced method of ground-based infrared imaging while observing with the Keck I telescope. They found that the star's orbital inclination to earth appeared to be 10 to 15 degrees. Even so, Hill's own optical spectroscopic measurements using the Keck I several years later, found the inclination to be 30 to 40 degrees.

"But if you look at WR 104 and the image of its pinwheel," said Hill, "it really is a visceral and powerful argument that the thing is face on with an inclination of zero."

http://www.forbes.com/sites/brucedorminey/2013/05/27/earth-may-still -l ie-in-path-of-potential-gamma-ray-burst-grb-say-astronomers/

Correct me if I'm wrong, but even with an inclination of only a few degrees, after 8000 light years, wouldn't that render us fairly safe? I mean, the gamma ray burst would literally have to be completely aligned with us at 0 degrees of inclination for it to hit us head on?

Excuse the crude and out of scale drawing I made. Can anyone better educated on the matter help explain?

i1212.photobucket.com
 
2013-05-28 09:40:31 AM  

Andromeda: Astronomer here, a few friends work on gamma-ray bursts.  My understanding from them is no one seriously thinks this is going to happen "soon," and with this star they think its axis isn't pointing towards us even if it did go supernova/ produced a GRB when it did.

But that's not so doom and gloom, is it?


Hey, Andromeda - glad you're here, any help with my question would be greatly appreciated.
 
ZAZ [TotalFark]
2013-05-28 09:41:43 AM  
According to the fragment of wikibabble displayed inline by a google search for "gamma ray burst cone angle" the most powerful radiation is in a 2 to 20 degree cone. And being made of gamma rays is not deflected by earth's magnetic field.
 
2013-05-28 09:45:48 AM  

RexTalionis: Andromeda: Astronomer here, a few friends work on gamma-ray bursts.  My understanding from them is no one seriously thinks this is going to happen "soon," and with this star they think its axis isn't pointing towards us even if it did go supernova/ produced a GRB when it did.

But that's not so doom and gloom, is it?

Hey, Andromeda - glad you're here, any help with my question would be greatly appreciated.


I'm no GRB expert, but my understanding is when they have the burst the cone is several degrees wide, like 10-20 degrees was the last theoretical calculation I heard on that matter (plus or minus quite a few degrees, this is still a pretty new field).  Which is what makes this all a LOT more hand-wavey a calculation than the article makes it seem like.
 
2013-05-28 09:47:46 AM  

Andromeda: RexTalionis: Andromeda: Astronomer here, a few friends work on gamma-ray bursts.  My understanding from them is no one seriously thinks this is going to happen "soon," and with this star they think its axis isn't pointing towards us even if it did go supernova/ produced a GRB when it did.

But that's not so doom and gloom, is it?

Hey, Andromeda - glad you're here, any help with my question would be greatly appreciated.

I'm no GRB expert, but my understanding is when they have the burst the cone is several degrees wide, like 10-20 degrees was the last theoretical calculation I heard on that matter (plus or minus quite a few degrees, this is still a pretty new field).  Which is what makes this all a LOT more hand-wavey a calculation than the article makes it seem like.


Okay, fair enough - if a GRB is a fairly wide cone, would the potential radiation hitting a planet in the path be weaker from the wider cones due to the inverse square law?
 
2013-05-28 09:51:50 AM  

Andromeda: Astronomer here, a few friends work on gamma-ray bursts.  My understanding from them is no one seriously thinks this is going to happen "soon," and with this star they think its axis isn't pointing towards us even if it did go supernova/ produced a GRB when it did.

But that's not so doom and gloom, is it?


I know that 8,000 years is "soon" in astronomical terms, but for some reason using "soon" or "recently" when talking about these events irritates me.
/personal problem, I know.
 
2013-05-28 09:54:02 AM  

RexTalionis: Andromeda: RexTalionis: Andromeda: Astronomer here, a few friends work on gamma-ray bursts.  My understanding from them is no one seriously thinks this is going to happen "soon," and with this star they think its axis isn't pointing towards us even if it did go supernova/ produced a GRB when it did.

But that's not so doom and gloom, is it?

Hey, Andromeda - glad you're here, any help with my question would be greatly appreciated.

I'm no GRB expert, but my understanding is when they have the burst the cone is several degrees wide, like 10-20 degrees was the last theoretical calculation I heard on that matter (plus or minus quite a few degrees, this is still a pretty new field).  Which is what makes this all a LOT more hand-wavey a calculation than the article makes it seem like.

Okay, fair enough - if a GRB is a fairly wide cone, would the potential radiation hitting a planet in the path be weaker from the wider cones due to the inverse square law?


Frankly you're probably assuming we know a lot more about GRB origins than we really do know. (Plus there are actually several kinds of them, I'm only going into the kind when a supermassive star goes supernova.) When I say the width of the cone isn't known they're actually assumed to be similarly sized for all supermassive stars IRC, it's just we don't know how wide they usually are period.

Inverse square law happens for everything electromagnetic, it's just that GRBs are the most powerful bursts of energy we know of in the universe.  We usually detect them billions of light years away for reference, that's why one within our galaxy is something people like to speculate about in our doomsday scenarios (though I think they say we only have one every 5 million years or so within our own galaxy).
 
2013-05-28 09:58:37 AM  
Enough exposure to break up 50% of the ozone layer?  Yikes, I'd hate to be on the ISS on that side of the planet when that showed up, praying to live long enough to die of cancer.
 
2013-05-28 10:04:41 AM  

Andromeda: RexTalionis: Andromeda: RexTalionis: Andromeda: Astronomer here, a few friends work on gamma-ray bursts.  My understanding from them is no one seriously thinks this is going to happen "soon," and with this star they think its axis isn't pointing towards us even if it did go supernova/ produced a GRB when it did.

But that's not so doom and gloom, is it?

Hey, Andromeda - glad you're here, any help with my question would be greatly appreciated.

I'm no GRB expert, but my understanding is when they have the burst the cone is several degrees wide, like 10-20 degrees was the last theoretical calculation I heard on that matter (plus or minus quite a few degrees, this is still a pretty new field).  Which is what makes this all a LOT more hand-wavey a calculation than the article makes it seem like.

Okay, fair enough - if a GRB is a fairly wide cone, would the potential radiation hitting a planet in the path be weaker from the wider cones due to the inverse square law?

Frankly you're probably assuming we know a lot more about GRB origins than we really do know. (Plus there are actually several kinds of them, I'm only going into the kind when a supermassive star goes supernova.) When I say the width of the cone isn't known they're actually assumed to be similarly sized for all supermassive stars IRC, it's just we don't know how wide they usually are period.

Inverse square law happens for everything electromagnetic, it's just that GRBs are the most powerful bursts of energy we know of in the universe.  We usually detect them billions of light years away for reference, that's why one within our galaxy is something people like to speculate about in our doomsday scenarios (though I think they say we only have one every 5 million years or so within our own galaxy).


Okay, thanks for the info.
 
2013-05-28 10:39:25 AM  
Meanwhile, on the ISS.....

i42.fastpic.ru
 
2013-05-28 11:02:40 AM  
It mentions what happens to the Ozone... what happens at ground level?
 
2013-05-28 11:04:55 AM  

simplicimus: "We could see it go supernova anywhere from tomorrow to 500,000 years from now"
It's 8,000 light years away. It could have already happened as far as we know.


As time itself propagates at light speed. It will happen when it reaches us.

//Mind Blown.
 
2013-05-28 11:07:11 AM  

WippitGuud: It mentions what happens to the Ozone... what happens at ground level?


Your electronics would get fried most likely.  And I imagine the cancer rate would go up too.
 
2013-05-28 11:13:33 AM  

Andromeda: WippitGuud: It mentions what happens to the Ozone... what happens at ground level?

Your electronics would get fried most likely.  And I imagine the cancer rate would go up too.


Ok, went wiki-ing for gamma ray burst

FTW:
Gamma rays would not penetrate Earth's atmosphere to impact the surface directly, but they would chemically damage the stratosphere.

For example, if WR 104 were to hit Earth with a burst of 10 seconds duration, its gamma rays could deplete about 25 percent of the world's ozone layer. This would result in mass extinction, food chain depletion, and starvation. The side of Earth facing the GRB would receive potentially lethal radiation exposure, which can cause radiation sickness in the short term, and in the long term result in serious impacts to life due to ozone layer depletion


Ok... so gamma radiation wouldn't reach ground level, but people would die of radiation poisoning. What, does it stop an inch above ground level?
 
2013-05-28 11:17:40 AM  
Are we gamma die?
 
2013-05-28 11:18:17 AM  
If we're not off this rock by then or come up with some technology to help absorb or deflect it, then I guess as a species we deserve to be farked...

/how many other species on other planets get farked though too
 
2013-05-28 11:24:41 AM  

WippitGuud: Ok... so gamma radiation wouldn't reach ground level, but people would die of radiation poisoning. What, does it stop an inch above ground level?


Bad Astronomy looked at this a few years ago and has more details. Its not just about the GRB in itself, but a series of cascading effects. Also, thanks Andromeda. This is why I have you favorited. Because stellar explosions and oncoming asteroids are pretty goddamn important to me.
 
ZAZ [TotalFark]
2013-05-28 11:25:05 AM  
so gamma radiation wouldn't reach ground level, but people would die of radiation poisoning.

Not sure what the article is getting at, but here are two possibilities.

1. The optical depth of the atmosphere in the gamma ray band is greater than 1, but not much greater. Some of the gammas reach the ground. Think of the atmosphere as 10 meters of water above you; it looks like that to radiation. If the radiation is 1,000 times the lethal dose and half of the gammas are absorbed or scattered for each (1,000 kg / m^2) of intervening mass, you get about 1 lethal dose at ground level.

2. GRBs emit a lot of other stuff, but only the gammas travel intergalactic distances. A well aimed GRB within a few parsecs could deposit a lethal dose of neutrinos. Beyond that range but within our galaxy, you have to worry about ultra-high energy cosmic rays.
 
2013-05-28 11:26:53 AM  

simplicimus: Andromeda: Astronomer here, a few friends work on gamma-ray bursts.  My understanding from them is no one seriously thinks this is going to happen "soon," and with this star they think its axis isn't pointing towards us even if it did go supernova/ produced a GRB when it did.

But that's not so doom and gloom, is it?

I know that 8,000 years is "soon" in astronomical terms, but for some reason using "soon" or "recently" when talking about these events irritates me.
/personal problem, I know.


true.. it could have happened already.. 6000 years ago when the earth was formed and we are just waiting for it to hit
 
ZAZ [TotalFark]
2013-05-28 11:26:57 AM  
I should have linked to a definition of optical depth. Here is one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optical_depth.
 
2013-05-28 11:42:40 AM  
Guess I'd better stock up on sunscreen...
 
2013-05-28 11:43:55 AM  

kvinesknows: simplicimus: Andromeda: Astronomer here, a few friends work on gamma-ray bursts.  My understanding from them is no one seriously thinks this is going to happen "soon," and with this star they think its axis isn't pointing towards us even if it did go supernova/ produced a GRB when it did.

But that's not so doom and gloom, is it?

I know that 8,000 years is "soon" in astronomical terms, but for some reason using "soon" or "recently" when talking about these events irritates me.
/personal problem, I know.

true.. it could have happened already.. 6000 years ago when the earth was formed and we are just waiting for it to hit


images.sodahead.com
 
2013-05-28 11:45:57 AM  
We could see it go supernova anywhere from tomorrow to 500,000 years from now

Can SOMEONE please just tell me when to panic?
 
vpb [TotalFark]
2013-05-28 11:46:59 AM  

WippitGuud: It mentions what happens to the Ozone... what happens at ground level?


I think all the plants would die leaving us with nothing to eat except for non-biological food sources.

So, I guess we would just eat at Taco Bell.
 
2013-05-28 11:49:11 AM  

KellyX: If we're not off this rock by then or come up with some technology to help absorb or deflect it, then I guess as a species we deserve to be farked...

/how many other species on other planets get farked though too


What a lovely religion. Please tell me, this "rock", what's wrong with it? The other "rocks" in the Solar System are far more exposed, what with their "no atmosphere or too much or no magnetosphere" going on.

Sorry, no one's going anywhere.

Andromeda: Inverse square law happens for everything electromagnetic,


Maybe just for astrophysics people but I can whip up a fair number of exceptions right here. Then again, everything you guys study is in the far field...
 
2013-05-28 11:49:42 AM  

abhorrent1: We could see it go supernova anywhere from tomorrow to 500,000 years from now

Can SOMEONE please just tell me when to panic?


Don't
When it's time to panic, it will already be over.
 
2013-05-28 11:51:26 AM  

doglover: If only we had some kind of sphere of magnetic energy that could shield us from extraterrestrial radiation. If only.


If we had a sphere of magnetic energy strong enough to deflect photons, it would look really funny. And it would be really bad for life forms that rely on the orbits and interactions of charged particles. Like, you know, us.
 
2013-05-28 11:56:57 AM  

Somacandra: Because stellar explosions and oncoming asteroids are pretty goddamn important to me.


Reed Richards, is that you?
 
2013-05-28 11:58:19 AM  
In short, nothing to actually worry about.
 
2013-05-28 12:06:31 PM  

jfarkinB: doglover: If only we had some kind of sphere of magnetic energy that could shield us from extraterrestrial radiation. If only.

If we had a sphere of magnetic energy strong enough to deflect photons, it would look really funny. And it would be really bad for life forms that rely on the orbits and interactions of charged particles. Like, you know, us.


Yeah, but that assumes a knowledge of physics, the real kind, not Star Trek, above, say, grade level.
 
2013-05-28 12:07:15 PM  
Since we're kind of on the topic of HULK SMASH, can I submit to this honorable house that this:

tvmedya.trsohbet.com

is so lame in comparison to the far superior

www.watchcartoononline.com

that it replaced.
 
2013-05-28 12:08:36 PM  

WippitGuud: Don't
When it's time to panic, it will already be over.


Exactly; even if we all had GRB shelters, there isn't an early-warning system that one could invent that could get the news to us early enough, and even then the ozone depletion and acid rain all over the facing half of the globe would be waiting for us topside.
 
2013-05-28 12:11:17 PM  

WippitGuud: Andromeda: WippitGuud: It mentions what happens to the Ozone... what happens at ground level?

Your electronics would get fried most likely.  And I imagine the cancer rate would go up too.

Ok, went wiki-ing for gamma ray burst

FTW:
Gamma rays would not penetrate Earth's atmosphere to impact the surface directly, but they would chemically damage the stratosphere.

For example, if WR 104 were to hit Earth with a burst of 10 seconds duration, its gamma rays could deplete about 25 percent of the world's ozone layer. This would result in mass extinction, food chain depletion, and starvation. The side of Earth facing the GRB would receive potentially lethal radiation exposure, which can cause radiation sickness in the short term, and in the long term result in serious impacts to life due to ozone layer depletion

Ok... so gamma radiation wouldn't reach ground level, but people would die of radiation poisoning. What, does it stop an inch above ground level?


Could just be that the GRB would deplete a lot of ozone and then our our own sun's UV radiation would do us in.
 
2013-05-28 12:16:19 PM  

ZAZ: A well aimed GRB within a few parsecs could deposit a lethal dose of neutrinos.


Come again?
 
2013-05-28 12:17:58 PM  

vpb: WippitGuud: It mentions what happens to the Ozone... what happens at ground level?

I think all the plants would die leaving us with nothing to eat except for non-biological food sources.

So, I guess we would just eat at Taco Bell.


Well, you know that was just going to happen anyway:

4.bp.blogspot.com
 
2013-05-28 12:18:00 PM  

simplicimus: I know that 8,000 years is "soon" in astronomical terms, but for some reason using "soon" or "recently" when talking about these events irritates me.


i249.photobucket.com
 
2013-05-28 12:20:56 PM  

W. T. Fark: WippitGuud:
Ok... so gamma radiation wouldn't reach ground level, but people would die of radiation poisoning. What, does it stop an inch above ground level?

Could just be that the GRB would deplete a lot of ozone and then our our own sun's UV radiation would do us in.


Can UV cause radiation poisoning? Beyond sunburn stuff.
 
ZAZ [TotalFark]
2013-05-28 12:30:14 PM  
Cubicle Jockey

The core of a supernova converts around 1 solar mass from normal matter into high energy neutrinos. At that energy and density neutrinos interact relatively strongly with matter, so a few percent to most of the neutrinos bounce off other particles on the way out of the star and cause it to explode. See http://www.phy.ornl.gov/groups/astro_theory/ccsn/ccmodeling.html. It is possible that without neutrinos massive stars would quietly collapse into black holes. Astrophysicists' computer programs had a hard time blowing up stars without them.

Even though neutrinos are famously reluctant to interact with normal matter, the density is so high around a supernova that the neutrinos alone would kill humans within a billion kilometers or so. I am speculating that the jet mechanism of a GRB would concentrate neutrinos in a tight beam, dangerous to much larger distances, but I could be wrong.
 
2013-05-28 12:39:12 PM  
 
2013-05-28 12:39:47 PM  

WippitGuud: W. T. Fark: WippitGuud:
Ok... so gamma radiation wouldn't reach ground level, but people would die of radiation poisoning. What, does it stop an inch above ground level?

Could just be that the GRB would deplete a lot of ozone and then our our own sun's UV radiation would do us in.

Can UV cause radiation poisoning? Beyond sunburn stuff.


Well, it's not interstellar, but I've seen welders at the shipyard go into cold sweats and vomiting from welding without their proper PPE, and I know the arc releases the full UV spectrum. Worst sunburns I've ever seen have been achieved in the middle of the night.
 
2013-05-28 12:42:26 PM  

factoryconnection: WippitGuud: Don't
When it's time to panic, it will already be over.

Exactly; even if we all had GRB shelters, there isn't an early-warning system that one could invent that could get the news to us early enough, and even then the ozone depletion and acid rain all over the facing half of the globe would be waiting for us topside.


We could cover up in protective material when out and stay indoors most of the time to avoid death by UV damage. But.... our food can't. And while acid rain isn't like a rain of flesh-melting death - it would kill plant life and potentially poison the seas pretty good.

So we'd be 7 billion very hungry people in a big hurry. I'm not sure how many years it would take the ozone layer to recover (the devil would be in the details there I'd think), but it would be on the order of years. On the one hand mankind's industrial activity would certainly come to a screeching halt which I'd imagine would let it recover faster, but that would be entirely moot. A total disruption of our food supply coupled with widespread and nearly total environmental collapse would mean most of us would die within months.

In the chaos of us all realizing suddenly we're going to almost all starve to death within the year I'd imagine there would be a possibility of last minute stupidity such as a nuclear exchange among desperate, dying countries. That could be icing on the cake... But even without that, I'm sure only a few very small pockets of humans might be able to survive on stored foods and cannabilism (and even cannibalism is only a viable option so long as there are still other living humans left to cannibalize)... depending on how long the UV levels took to drop. Once they dropped to manageable levels you could plant seeds again - assuming you had stored them properly for long term storage - which is a solvable but non trivial problem. (I have actually set up my own personal seed bank so that my seeds will keep a high rate of viability for many years - but you have to do it intentionally if you want any appreciable number of vegetable seeds to remain viable for 5+, 10+ years)

Now, if you happen to have such a seed vault, and you happen to live out in the middle of nowhere (an increasingly hard place to be here in North America), and you happen to have a nice big barn or something with solar powered LED grow lights so you can grow food indoors then maybe you'll be able to make it for a long time with your family. Assuming nothing vital breaks that you don't have spare parts for (or can scavenge them), no one launches nukes and no roving bands of hungry murder-rapists find you then maybe you could survive until the outside world became more hospitable. Maybe. And what you found would be a very, very different world. Hope you like the veggies you and your family kept seeds for because that's all you and your descendents are going to eat. Well, and some bugs I guess. And maybe some fish eventually.
 
2013-05-28 12:46:03 PM  

mongbiohazard: factoryconnection: WippitGuud: Don't
When it's time to panic, it will already be over.

Exactly; even if we all had GRB shelters, there isn't an early-warning system that one could invent that could get the news to us early enough, and even then the ozone depletion and acid rain all over the facing half of the globe would be waiting for us topside.

We could cover up in protective material when out and stay indoors most of the time to avoid death by UV damage. But.... our food can't. And while acid rain isn't like a rain of flesh-melting death - it would kill plant life and potentially poison the seas pretty good.

So we'd be 7 billion very hungry people in a big hurry. I'm not sure how many years it would take the ozone layer to recover (the devil would be in the details there I'd think), but it would be on the order of years. On the one hand mankind's industrial activity would certainly come to a screeching halt which I'd imagine would let it recover faster, but that would be entirely moot. A total disruption of our food supply coupled with widespread and nearly total environmental collapse would mean most of us would die within months.

In the chaos of us all realizing suddenly we're going to almost all starve to death within the year I'd imagine there would be a possibility of last minute stupidity such as a nuclear exchange among desperate, dying countries. That could be icing on the cake... But even without that, I'm sure only a few very small pockets of humans might be able to survive on stored foods and cannabilism (and even cannibalism is only a viable option so long as there are still other living humans left to cannibalize)... depending on how long the UV levels took to drop. Once they dropped to manageable levels you could plant seeds again - assuming you had stored them properly for long term storage - which is a solvable but non trivial problem. (I have actually set up my own personal seed bank so that my seeds will keep a high rate of viability for ma ...


I make my own personal seed bank every time there is a redhead thread
 
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