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Is a Death Star Poised for Final Supernova Detonation Aimed at Earth? Astronomers Say "Maybe"

Death_star Australian astronomers have been studying an intergalactic assassin poised to wipe out life on Earth.  Maybe.  Observations indicate that cosmological curiosity WR104 may be a killer - and we might be the victim.

The pretty pinwheel that makes the system so distinctive is now know to be a combination of two stars - a blue star orbiting the Wolf-Rayet 104.  Note that the "Wolf-Rayet" name is the astronomical equivalent of a beeping red LCD countdown reading "0:01" - it's a swollen star getting ready for final supernova detonation.  At the moment its fusion reactions are blasting its own photosphere off into space, where the blue companion orbits and illuminates the material, creating a seriously impressive spiral over twice the size of our solar system.

We have a perfect view of this pinwheel pattern, since the spiral is at right angles to us, in the same way a man being held at gunpoint has a perfect view of the little hole the bullets come out of.  And the gun is over twenty-five times the size of the sun.  When a binary system collapses into a black hole, which astronomers call 'coalescence' (a euphemism which makes 'heated debate' a valid description of World War II), it can release a gigantic burst of gamma rays.  Gamma rays are the ultimate high energy electromagnetic radiation, and while the burst lasts less than two minutes it can contain more energy than the entire mass of the sun converted into energy by E = m c^2.  You'll notice that the mass of the sun and the speed of light, c, are extremely large numbers.

On the upside we'll never see it coming.  The EM-burst travels the speed of light so the only warning we'd have is dying - which most people will accept is a little too late.  The dinosaurs certainly did (some scientists believe historical mass extinctions were caused by similar intergalactic "life reset button" gamma bursts).  Even better, this Earthicidal explosion may have already happened with the lethal radiation already speeding its way right at us.  On the other hand, the big boom might not happen for hundreds of thousands of years - and might do so without a peep of gamma radiation.

The combination of science and philosophy is a challenging field that many don't bother with, but this is a strong motivation to start.  If you could die tomorrow, how would you like to live today?

Posted by Luke McKinney.


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Source links:

Possible gamma ray game over?
All about WR104

Comments

If i were to die tomorrow, i would live today like i live every day...with out pants.

How far away is WR104 ??? Will I have time to 1.) build a shelter or 2. ) Make funeral plans before the microwave inundation ???
Will lead - lined undergarments provide protection ?
" Chicken - Little " syndrome - The sky is falling.
We have more immediate concerns on terra firma than getting nuked by gamma rays from a neutron ( ? ) star.

rember this is still theoritical rehtoric. no one knows what is really out there and the effects of the universe. mainly due to the very short time humans have been observing the universe around us and many cultures have failed to viably produce an accurate doomsday prediction. which is directly due to extreme pessimism and fear of the unknown.

"many cultures have failed to viably produce an accurate doomsday prediction"

Umm, well .. when one does we wont be able to congratulate them will we.

All I can say is, Mayan calendar, 2012. Hmmm.

"beeping red LCD countdown reading "0:01"

you mean... LED

Ladies and gentlemen, this is what we call "fear mongering".

what a joke of an article
do you live life every day Luke McKinney or do you write stupid fear articles like this.
i almost died 3 times this morning getting to work.

Lol.. gamma rays aren't exactly highly interactive with matter, we get showered with them nonstop by ancient supernovae in the cosmic background radiation. If we took a direct hit it would be a short irradiation of most likely the Earth's innards, not us. The chances of the light interacting with human matter would be mind bogglingly small, it most certainly wouldn't amount to any kind of extinction. Granted though, it would case a small increase in cancer

At 8000 light years away, not likely it would hit earth. Remember we are on a moving train, the Doppler effect comes into play here. while moving away there is very little chance of being hit when we are moving away from it.

FUD.

I'm sure the democrats will find some way to blame this on global warming.

Even if the radiation is already on the way, do we know it will be aimed directly for earth? Just a few degrees off and we'll be fine... Cool stuff! I don't know why people are so offended by what they claim is "fear mongering" -- your headline says "maybe"!

@sufferpuppet

That. Makes. No. Sense.

'"beeping red LCD countdown reading "0:01"
you mean... LED' -posted by "Me"
or he means liquid crystal display

"At 8000 light years away, not likely it would hit earth. Remember we are on a moving train, the Doppler effect comes into play here. while moving away there is very little chance of being hit when we are moving away from it." - posted by Mikeyg
What does this have to do with the Doppler effect? This is the most uninformed post I've seen on here yet.

"Lol.. gamma rays aren't exactly highly interactive with matter, we get showered with them nonstop by ancient supernovae in the cosmic background radiation." - posted by "Pete"
What the article is talking about is the fact that this would let off gamma rays in very focused directions along the axis of rotation - that's where the whole gun analogy comes in, because we're possibly right in a location where we'd be hit. Plus, 8000 light years is not too distant in astronomical terms, so this would be a MUCH stronger pulse of gamma rays than currently hit earth.

@ sufferpuppet

or the religious right will find a way to blame it on gay marriage...

The picture doesn't look much like a pinwheel because it's not Wolf-Rayet 104! Wolf-Rayet 124 is a single star, almost twice as far away as WR104, illuminating the nebula M1-67.

APOD link for WR124:
http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap981109.html

Well the truth of things is that this article doesn't matter even if it is true. There is nothing we can do to stop this gamma ray burst in the unlikely event that it will occur in our lifetimes or even our great-grandchildren's lifetimes. Posting something about how we're all going to die at an indeterminate date from something vastly beyond our control is simply stating the obvious. It's called the human condition. This isn't even fear mongering because there's no obvious goal, it's just a cry for attention.

Dude this is like WAY too cool. Good stuff!

RT
www.anon-tools.cz.tc

How could it wipe out all life on Earth? Since the gamma ray burst only lasts for 2 minutes, at most it could only destroy the half of the Earth facing that direction.

If it causes a Gamma Ray Burst and it actually hits earth the Magnetic shield and Atmosphere will be torn to shreds. Scientist have hypothesized this is what happened to mars. That it may have had a magnetic shield and a better atmosphere. Then a Gamma Ray Burst blew it to oblivion. the width of the burst is very minute, So it could hit earth and thats it. A Gamma Ray Burst is differen't than just a gamma ray.

Interesting but unfortunately this is a crock.

"beeping red LCD countdown reading "0:01"
you mean... LED' -posted by "Me"
"or he means liquid crystal display"

Funny, I don't remember any LCDs or LEDs audibly "beeping". Now flashing is another thing.

We as a society are like children, invincible and inmortal. The clock is ticking, and if we don't do something about it, the human race will not survive. A mass extintion can happen any time, with little warning. The question is, will we be ready?

According to Dr. Adrian Melott of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Kansas... a gamma ray burst would have to orginate 6000 light years of Earth to cause the extinction that this article is claiming could happen.

So i dont know whos more knowledgable.. i suppose just because you have access to large telescopes and cal yourself an astronomer doesnt necessarily make you an astrophysicist. We would have to know more about the credentials of those making this claim. I would love a second opinion here.

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