Articles in Space Nasties
I’ve just been reading Parallel Worlds by Michio Kaku. He is very skilled at making complex topics easy to follow. And that helps me to generate ideas rather than just trying to keep up. This is from page 126:
Gamma Ray Bursters… releasing within seconds the entire energy output of our Sun over its entire life history (about 10 billion years).
That amount of energy is hard to imagine. The current thinking is that a GRB is the result of a hypernova – a super supernova. And all the energy would be released in two narrow directions which are known as a jets. The closest potential hypernova that we know of is Eta Carinae.
This from Wikipedia:
It is possible that the Eta Carinae hypernova or supernova, when it occurs, could affect Earth, about 7,500 light years away. It is unlikely, however, to affect terrestrial lifeforms directly, as they will be protected from gamma …
I don’t know much about our Galactic Center, and scientists don’t know that much more. Here are some concepts that are mostly agreed:
Most galactic centers harbor black holes, and it looks like they probably all do
Those black holes are generally very energetic
The source of the energy is anything that gets sucked in
Our galactic center is very quiet in comparison
Maybe it is just hungry? Well, it is about to be fed:
Scientists have determined a giant gas cloud is on a collision course with the black hole in the center of our galaxy, and the two will be close enough by mid-2013 to provide a unique opportunity to observe how a super massive black hole sucks in material, in real time. This will give astronomers more information on how matter behaves near a black hole.
“The next few years will be really fantastic and exciting because we are probing new territory,” said Reinhard …
These two things are certain:
Nothing has completely eradicated life on Earth (so far)
Natural catastrophes may vary in size, type and location – but they always repeat
An explosion from our Galactic Core is certainly survivable, although you might need a bunker and supplies to last decades… Paul LaViolette explains such explosions in his books, especially Earth Under Fire. When asked for a prediction regarding the next explosion, he says:
A conservative guess would be that there is a 90% chance that a superwave will arrive in the next four centuries. I cannot rule out the possibility that one might arrive around the time of the Mayan calendar end date of 2012, as some proclaim.
Since he wrote Earth Under Fire, the Fermi telescope has been looking for “extremely short wavelengths on the far end of the electromagnetic spectrum”. And when they are mapped we get this:
See the full size image here.
At EarthSky.org a …
I’m not a physicist, and I am certainly not inclined to work out the harm a supernova can do to us. But I do know that when scientists say X light years away is safe, I think perhaps multiply that by 5 or 10 to cover the aspects they haven’t discovered or determined yet.
Black Holes are not acknowledged by orthodox scientists to be a risk to Planet Earth. The jets that can flow from them would be devastating, but with the nearest black hole being so far away (the center of our galaxy), the idea that we can be affected is ignored.
Enter Paul LaViolette:
Galactic superwaves recur at long intervals and arrive at Earth’s doorstep without warning because they travel at near light speed.
During its active period, our galactic core spews out a fierce quasar-like barrages of cosmic rays, with a total energy output equal to hundreds of thousands of supernova …
Gamma Rays have been detected from a nova (not to be confused with a supernova) for the first time, something that has surprised scientists. I’m guessing that unlike supernovae, we are unable to tell if a nova event is likely to occur any time soon from a nearby star. This is the latest in a string of news reports where space is acting differently to what scientists previously believed – so keep that in mind when scientists insist we are safe from space nasties…
Radioactive elements decay at a constant rate, is something that is taught in high school. Wrong. When you are observing the decay year by year, it is pretty much constant. However it has just been discovered that the intra-year decay rate fluctuates due to how close we are to the Sun, and when there are solar flares.
Every time a scientist tells us we have nothing to fear, another will admit that they often don’t know much at all. Some 2012 theorists have suggested our galactic centre might be the cause of a 2012 event. For some, like me, it is because most galaxies have very energetic centres, and we haven’t been watching ours long enough to know if it is as benign as it appears. For others, it is a misunderstanding of the “galactic alignment” meme. Scientists have told us that we have no reason to fear our galactic centre, because the super-massive black hole that resides there (right where extensions of the tail of Scorpio and the arrow of Sagittarius cross) is quiet.
Well, new observations may cause scientists to rethink the risks:
Two huge bubbles that emit gamma rays have been found billowing from the center of the Milky Way galaxy, astronomers have announced.
The previously unseen …
This press release caught the eye of a 2012 Forum member:
Press activities have now been planned for “Gamma Ray Bursts 2010 Conference,” a meeting of over 200 astronomers, which will take place on November 1-4 in Annapolis, MD. A press briefing featuring several notable results from the meeting will be held in the morning on Wednesday, November 3, 2010, and will be available to reporters who are not in attendance as a media telecon.
It could just be that the “new data coming from the Fermi and MAXI missions, dedicated GRB chasing by Swift and continued observations by AGILE, INTEGRAL, Konus and Suzaku” will be bringing forth interesting but not 2012ish news. Or perhaps one of these sessions could have some juicy information for us?
Gamma Ray Bursts, Ultra-high Energy Cosmic Rays, and the Intergalactic Magnetic Field
On the nature of dark bursts
I really like “bad astronomy” articles, but even more so when they admit they are scared. In this instance it is a binary star known as Wr 104. At a distance of 5000-8000 light years a supernova is not expected to harm us. But a Gamma Ray Burst might, especially if it is aimed straight at us!
GRBs are a special type of supernova. When a very massive star explodes, the inner core collapses, forming a black hole, while the outer layers explode outwards. Due to a complex and fierce collusion of forces in the core, two beams of raw fury can erupt out of the star, mind-numbing in their power. Composed mostly of high-energy gamma rays, they can carry more energy in them than the Sun will put out in its entire lifetime. They are so energetic we can see them clear across the Universe, and having one too close …
A powerful jet from a super massive black hole is blasting a nearby galaxy, according to new findings from NASA observatories. This never-before witnessed galactic violence may have a profound effect on planets in the jet’s path and trigger a burst of star formation in its destructive wake.
…Jets from super massive black holes produce high amounts of radiation, especially high-energy X-rays and gamma-rays, which can be lethal in large quantities. The combined effects of this radiation and particles traveling at almost the speed of light could severely damage the atmospheres of planets lying in the path of the jet. For example, protective layers of ozone in the upper atmosphere of planets could be destroyed.
Not to be specifically fearful of, but a nice reminder of the forces that are out there in space. If we understood them better, maybe we could predict or dismiss the possibilities of 2012.
In June 2000, shortly after being knighted, Arthur C Clarke said:
“Some of the greatest threats to mankind’s future, are global warming, pollution, gamma ray bursts and the threat of an asteroid hitting the earth.
…Gamma ray bursts are sudden outbursts of energy – several times more powerful than the sun – which may suddenly occur,” he elucidated.
“If it happens during any of our lifetimes, we have all had it. I think that such a phenomenon may have affected evolution and if it happens again, there is nothing we can do about it.”
7.5 billion years ago, 7.5 billion light years from us, a star exploded.
The light from this gamma ray burst took until last month to be reach Earth. For a couple of hours this explosion was visible to the naked eye, making it the most distant thing a human has ever seen unaided.
Consider the power behind such a burst, to be visible from the other end of the universe. And wonder how much it could harm you if it occured much closer to home.
The spinning wheel is generated by two massive stars, 8000 light years away, circling each other every eight months. Gigantic clouds of gas streaming off the stars are being stretched by the stellar dance into a spiral, much as water spirals from a rotating garden sprinkler.
Eight years ago Dr Tuthill’s team, using Hawaii’s huge Keck telescope, discovered that one of the objects is a highly unstable beast called a Wolf-Rayet star. They inevitably die in huge explosions that may sometimes produce deadly gamma ray bursts.
Now Dr Tuthill’s team has made another discovery. Overlapping 11 time-lapse images of the 30 billion-kilometre-long gas spiral, they have concluded that Earth is almost directly above one pole of the doomed star, dubbed WR 104. When Wolf-Rayet stars explode, much of their energy is blasted from the poles.
“From our vantage point,” said Dr Tuthill, “we are looking right down the gun barrel. That’s what’s got …
The supermassive black hole at the center of a distant galaxy is blasting a smaller neighbor with a violent energy jet—earning it the moniker the “Death Star” galaxy—scientists announced today.
The jet has probably fried the atmospheres of any planets in the way, researchers added.
…The unusually close distance between the two galaxies means humans don’t need to fear a “Death Star”-like blast in the Milky Way, the authors of the new study add.
There are many supermassive black holes with active jets pointing toward Earth. But these phenomena, known as “blazars,” are churning at much safer distances —millions or even billions of light-years away
Unless there is an invisble one nearby!Or one decides to zap us with a bit more than normal…
The current theory holds that that gamma ray bursts like GRB 070125 are given off by super-jumbo-sized stars that run out of fuel and violently collapse to form black holes, explains Neil Gehrels, principal investigator of NASA’s Swift telescope.
Such huge stars can only be created in very gas and dust-rich parts of galaxies where lots of other stars are also being born. So it makes no sense to find such a star living and dying in the empty space between galaxies.
Yet another space nasty to worry about. If it doesn’t come from a star we can see, then the possibility exists that we can be zapped from one that is either a star we cannot see, or not a star at all. More at Discovery.com
This animation begins with a close-up of the supermassive black hole in the centre of the galaxy 3C321. Hot gas falls towards the black hole; some is swallowed but much is ejected in a particle beam. As the camera pans out, the companion galaxy becomes visible as it swings into the path of the jet, which is deflected in the process (Courtesy of NASA/STScI/G Bacon)
You wouldn’t want to be in the path of this space nasty:
A jet of hot gas and high-energy particles is shooting out from the core of a galaxy called 3C321 and hitting a neighbou
…Any Earth-like planets that may lie in the path of this beam might be sterilised. If such a jet were aimed at Earth, it would blast the upper atmosphere with gamma radiation. That would destroy the ozone layer in months to years, says Evans, leaving earthlings exposed to carcinogenic ultraviolet rays from the …