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Trumansfangs
Missouri Fan
Town & Country
Member since Sep 2018
2267 posts

Tree rings may hold clues to impacts of distant supernovas on Earth
ScienceDaily


Massive explosions of energy happening thousands of light-years from Earth may have left traces in our planet's biology and geology, according to new research.



The article is long, here's the scarey part at the end.



Beware Betelgeuse

He noted that scientists have recorded supernovas in other galaxies that have produced a stupendous amount of gamma radiation -- the same kind of radiation that can trigger the formation of radiocarbon atoms on Earth. While these isotopes aren't dangerous on their own, a spike in their levels could indicate that energy from a distant supernova has traveled hundreds to thousands of light-years to our planet.

To test the hypothesis, Brakenridge turned to the past. He assembled a list of supernovas that occurred relatively close to Earth over the last 40,000 years. Scientists can study these events by observing the nebulas they left behind. He then compared the estimated ages of those galactic fireworks to the tree ring record on the ground.

He found that of the eight closest supernovas studied, all seemed to be associated with unexplained spikes in the radiocarbon record on Earth. He considers four of these to be especially promising candidates. Take the case of a former star in the Vela constellation. This celestial body, which once sat about 815 lightyears from Earth, went supernova roughly 13,000 years ago. Not long after that, radiocarbon levels jumped up by nearly 3% on Earth -- a staggering increase.

The findings aren't anywhere close to a smoking gun, or star, in this case. Scientists still have trouble dating past supernovas, making the timing of the Vela explosion uncertain with a possible error of as much as 1,500 years. It's also not clear what the impacts of such a disruption might have been for plants and animals on Earth at the time. But Brakenridge believes that the question is worth a lot more research.

"What keeps me going is when I look at the terrestrial record and I say, 'My God, the predicted and modeled effects do appear to be there.'"

He hopes that humanity won't have to see those effects for itself anytime soon. Some astronomers think they've picked up signs that Betelgeuse, a red giant star in the constellation Orion, might be on the verge of collapsing and going supernova. And it's only 642.5 light-years from Earth, much closer than Vela.

"We can hope that's not what's about to happen because Betelgeuse is really close," he said.
This post was edited on 11/12 at 5:01 pm


Arksulli
Arkansas Fan
Fayetteville
Member since Aug 2014
19950 posts

re: Tree rings may hold clues to impacts of distant supernovas on Earth
I read that some researchers believe that one of Earth's mass extinctions was caused by a supernova.


GurleyGirl
Georgia Fan
Georgia
Member since Nov 2015
11346 posts

re: Tree rings may hold clues to impacts of distant supernovas on Earth
Seems feasible and it makes me wonderful how many planetary civilizations have been wiped out by meteors and galactic disasters over thousands of years.


Arksulli
Arkansas Fan
Fayetteville
Member since Aug 2014
19950 posts

re: Tree rings may hold clues to impacts of distant supernovas on Earth
quote:

Seems feasible and it makes me wonderful how many planetary civilizations have been wiped out by meteors and galactic disasters over thousands of years.


I would imagine around the universe some fairly advanced civilizations were wiped out in one fell swoop that way. Which is pretty darn humbling.


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Miznoz
Missouri Fan
St. Louis
Member since Dec 2018
523 posts

re: Tree rings may hold clues to impacts of distant supernovas on Earth


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