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back to article MY EYES! Earth engulfed by BRIGHTEST EVER killer gamma-ray burst

Earth has been bathed in its largest recorded burst of gamma rays after a star in the constellation Leo, 3.7 billion light-years away, collapsed in on itself to form a black hole. Youtube Video "This burst was a once in a century cosmic event," said Paul Hertz, director of NASA Astrophysics Division at a press conference on …

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Joke

Maybe it's time...

To start looking for guys who turn green when they get angry...

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Anonymous Coward

Dr Hertz

Gamma ray scientist called Hertz. I hope his middle name is Exa.

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Happy

Re: Dr Hertz

I'd prefer Herz was his first name, Van Rental his surname.

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> so bright ... because it was so close to Earth

Where "close" here means 3.7 billion light years. About the only certainty I have in reading astro articles is (a) I'll be surprised (b) my head will hurt

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Re: > so bright ... because it was so close to Earth

Indeed. And the actual event happened over 3 billion years ago :D

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Anonymous Coward

Re: > so bright ... because it was so close to Earth

You may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: > so bright ... because it was so close to Earth

Marvellous. Takes me right back.

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HMB

Re: > so bright ... because it was so close to Earth

"Indeed. And the actual event happened over 3 billion years ago :D"

This is true.

Come on reg! More up to date reporting please!

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Re: > so bright ... because it was so close to Earth

New Scientist reports 3.6 billion. Mainstream news 4 billion.

I love the way that mainstream media casually rounded up by 2,351,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles!

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The GRB 130472A event wasn't so bright because it was especially large, in universal terms, but because it was so close to Earth and our planet was in the right plane to catch the emissions.

Well, if 3.7 billion is close, then I'd hate to contemplate what would happen if that nearby unstable monster Betelgeuse or similar were to collapse. It's only about 600ly away. And the supergiant VY Canis Majoris is just 4000ly or so. Such distances are ridiculously small compared to 3.7 billion.

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Be grateful!

I don't want to appear in a Greg Egan story.

On second thoughts, maybe I do.

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"Well, if 3.7 billion is close, then I'd hate to contemplate what would happen if that nearby unstable monster Betelgeuse or similar were to collapse."

Maybe they already have...

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For Betelgeuse, very little. It's rotational axis is away from Earth, so a GRB won't hit us.

It *would* be brighter than the full moon and visible during daylight.

However, its shell would eventually reach our solar system, collapsing the solar magnetopause, possibly to Earth.

That would render space travel pretty much impossible.

That said, the shell of protons and assorted other particles wouldn't reach the solar system until around 100000 years after the supernova.

As for VY Canis Majoris, too far away to do anything to us beyond giving a nice show.

And perhaps, fracture some more theories. ;)

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Betelgeuse

> Maybe they already have...

Then HOW OLD are Ford and Zaphod???

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Re: Betelgeuse

> Then HOW OLD are Ford and Zaphod???

Well, it's all relative...

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We'd die and not see it coming.

GRBs are my favourite extinction event.

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Anonymous Coward

Question

Shouldn't the hope be that Betelgeuse or any other star hasn't already imploded? For such an event to affect life on Earth (in our lifetime or that of our near descendants), it would have had to occur many millions, if not billions, of years ago. I get lost thinking through the implications of time perspective. Star gazing is like looking at a record of how things appeared across billions of years, not now.

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@Wzrd1

Was aware axis of Betelgeuse would mean little harm to us, it was the only one I could think of that was very large, reasonably close and somewhat unstable w/o doing a search. However a while ago I read a report stating that if a star the size of Betelgeuse were collapse at ~300ly then we'd be in quite some strife even if off axis.

VY Canis Majoris, again because it came to mind as comparatively close and extremely large--the point here was the wording of the article:

Had the GRB 130427A event happened in our own galaxy then Earth may have been very seriously affected, possibly to the level of it being an extinction event for humanity.

As our galaxy is ~100k x ~20kly--with no distances being mentioned--then VY C/M at 4kly was 'comparatively close' (all trivial compared to 3.7 billion).

Got some better examples?

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@Tom 32

Perhaps so. If your name's Methuselah then you'll definitely find out one way or other with about 300 years to spare (that's if you're not zapped by the radiation).

:-)

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In Leo?

Poor wording.

"in the constellation Leo". No that would be only a few thousand light years at most.

So: "beyond our galaxy, in the direction of the constellation Leo".

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Re: In Leo?

"In the gamma quadrant"

Yoof will dig.

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Re: In Leo?

"In the gamma quadrant"

In Sector ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha

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Re: In Leo?

Nope, correct wording.

Constellations' size is measured in steradians. Distance is irrelevant - if it's in the same part of the sky, it's in the constellation....

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Paris Hilton

> The cosmic rays reached our world on April 27 in an event named GRB 130472A.

Called GRB 130427A, shurely?

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Not necessarily, it could have been the 72nd event recorded in April 2013.

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Meh

Daaaang

"We normally detect GRBs at great distance, meaning they usually appear quite faint," study co-author Paul O'Brien, an astronomer at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom, said in a statement. "In this case, the burst happened only a quarter of the way across the universe — meaning it was very bright."

Thanks Universe, for reminding me how insignificant we are at regular intervals.

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Anonymous Coward

Black magic

More black hole magic, so of course the physics doesn't work. Electric and magnetic fields are much better at producing gamma rays, as is demonstrated by lightning bolts, from which gamma rays have been detected.

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Headmaster

Re: Black magic

I'm eagerly awaiting for you to make any sense at all.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Black magic

Black holes are theorised to create gamma rays because gravity is so weak. Electromagnetic forces, on the other hand, are 10^39 times stronger. Lightning produces gamma rays, so a big cosmic lightning bolt would have no problems producing high-energy cosmic rays, and you don't need the black hole.

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Re: Black magic

Still makes no sense.

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Re: Black magic

"Electric and magnetic fields are much better at producing gamma rays, as is demonstrated by lightning bolts, from which gamma rays have been detected."

OK, why don't you hang out over the rotational pole of Sag A* and tell us all about it when that gas cloud hits in a few years.

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Re: Black magic

Any relativistic jet embarrasses puny lightning.

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Thumb Down

Re: Black magic

err, wouldn't the required magnetic fields and voltage be _very_ large ? Even by cosmological standards? So large they would go off long before a 20 hour stroke could be generated ? Are you suggesting a new magnetar hitting carbon dust ? Not a reader of "The Sun is Iron" are we ?

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@Destroy All Monsters -- Re: Black magic

Tolerance. After all, he's only an A.C.

;-)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Black magic

Cosmic electromagnetic fields are large. The solar magnetic field is far greater than anything generated on Earth. Radio jets have been detected that are 50 kpc long (150,000 lightyears), that carries about 3 × 10^18A). Iron sun? Not sure what you mean.

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That said, April's event did have a brief but noticeable effect on the Earth's ionosphere.

Anyone have the numbers on how much energy was dumped into the atmosphere?

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Comparison to the Oh My God particle

Back on 19911015, a detector in the USA detected a cosmic ray particle (probably a proton, known as the Oh My God particle) with an energy of 3E8 TeV (about the same as a baseball thrown at 55 mph).

Bert and Ernie come in at about 1E3 TeV in energy. A proton has a mass of about 938 MeV, and a neutrino has a mass of about 0.23 eV.. The mass of a proton is about 4E9 more than the mass of a neutrino.

What ever gave rise to Bert and Ernie, was a much more energetic event than gave rise to the Oh My God particle. At least in my humble understanding as a materials scientist.

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Intellectual Labor. Kinda.

"Rapid Telescopes for Optical Response (RAPTOR)"

That's a very, very labored acronym.

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Re: Intellectual Labor. Kinda.

Not nearly as laboured as American laws.

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Re: Intellectual Labor. Kinda.

Naming telescopes is hard...http://xkcd.com/1294/

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Alien

Oi careful !!

You could take out someone's planet with that!

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Re: Oi careful !!

At least it wasn't a cue in a game of intergalactic bar billiards.

(Ok ok I'll stop with the HHGG references. I promise. With all the sincerity of Mr Prosser.)

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Que ?

Ball - only scored 30 points

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The "interesting" number ...

... is the 20 hours.

Meaning that, should something similar happen closer, the whole of the earth's surface will be irradiated, not just a significant percentage.*

*OK, that assumes the event being approximately in the plane of the earths rotation ...

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Re: The "interesting" number ...

If the gamma flux in significant it doesn't matter that only one hemisphere of the Earth is exposed.

The danger is not radiation sickness. It's bulk ionisation of the atmosphere. Break down a significant percentage of the oxygen and nitrogen molecules, and they'll recombine into Nitrogen Oxides by the megatonne. Cue (a) instant destruction of the ozone layer and (b) decades of Nitric Acid rain.

Land life is the most vulnerable to these. The oceans are a very large sink, so life in the deep ocean has the best chance.

It's not very likely, though it fits the fossil pattern of one of the mass extinctions as well as anything else. One thing for sure, we wouldn't see it coming.

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Mushroom

Planet of the Hulks

The morning commute is deadly.

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Pint

Best name evar

...gotta head down for a pint - I need to ponder what sort of contraption could I start calling (and labelling!) "Black Hole Engine". Preferably with a US army-style sticker saying "Danger - Dark Matter Intake" or "Mind The Hawking Exhaust".

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Re: Best name evar

A vacuum cleaner. With a Dyson you can even see the gamma-ray axis.

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