How supernovae from nearby stars could cause mass extinction on Earth

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Jul 12, 2016, 11:42 AM EDT

As if we little humans didn’t have enough to worry about with potential asteroid strikes and nuclear war, it seems there’s one more thing to add to the list: supernovae from nearby star systems.

Popular Science reports a new study in Astrophysical Journal Letters, which looks at a minor mass extinction that affected Earth 2.59 million years ago, just as the Pliocene Epoch ended and the Pleistocene began. The supernovae that have been detected in the past, including this one, occurred approximately 300 light-years from Earth. That would be (and was) close enough to affect the planet and its atmosphere, and could have contributed to a partial die-off.

For what it’s worth: To actually wipe out life on our little marble (by completely frying it), a supernova would have to be within 26 light-years on Earth.
But, even at a much further distance than that, the researchers modeled light and radiation that would have reached Earth. The exploding stars could have lit up the night sky with blue light for several weeks (messing up sleep schedules) and sent harmful radiation that could’ve sickened and affected some land and water-dwelling creatures (i.e. cancer risks, mutations, etc.). 

So, yeah. In case you needed a fresh nightmare scenario to keep you up at night.


(Via Popular Science)