Scientists were thrilled to have captured images from the largest supernova explosion known to humankind. The star, named SN2006gy (SN for Super Nova, and the date it was discovered…an example of the patently droll naming conventions of astrophysicists everywhere) emitted four gamma ray bursts; the only time an event has been visible with the naked eye.
The actual explosions happened before Earth was even in existence–about 7 and half billion years ago in Earth-time, which is about the same amount of time it takes any tech support person to answer your email. That should, in any case, give you an idea of how far away 238 million light years is, when it takes that long for us to even SEE it. And understand that a light year isn’t 365 days, and it’s not a measure of time at all, but a measure of distance. So the distance light can travel in one of our years is 5.9 trillion miles–for ONE lightyear.
This stellar event even transpired on the same day that the infamous award-winning science fiction author Arthur C Clark died. Most of us can’t even hop for a 21 gun salute, Clarke gets an a truly astronomical display of fireworks. I think they ought to at least name it after him–the Clarke Supernova, or something.
I had to do a little research to even understand this event. In an article on stuff.co.nz, astronomer Dr. Peter Tuthill is quoted as saying that another unstable star, WR104, threatens earth.
Though there was debate among scientists about the effect of gamma-radiation blasts, some predicted they could burn off 50 per cent of the ozone layer, creating “dramatic” climate events like rampant global warming or even a nuclear winter, he said. *
In another article within the same topic, I saw the phrase “Gamma rays can’t penetrate Earth’s atmosphere” and as Tuthill’s concerns seemed to blatantly contradict several other more scientifically oriented sites, I’m still not sure what to make of it. Maybe he’s just one of those guys that needs to wear a hubcap on his head, so we can spot him for the nut he is…or maybe not.
But the general consensus is that these gamma ray bursts can travel billions of light years across the universe, but can’t penetrate our atmosphere. So nearby stars going supernova, are apparently not a threat, as gamma ray bursts go, and very small threat as far as debris, since a gamma ray burst shoots onto a specific stream, like a water hose, and comparatively, Earth is a very small object on the Universal scale.
Regardless, because the event happened so long ago, and we only now seeing it, i find it fascinating that as “old news” goes, this event is just about as old as it gets.
*New Scientist article