Sunday, January 13, 2008

Eta Carinae : The End of the World

There are a few interesting things about this star - visible mostly in the southern hemisphere skies.

The first is that it "exploded" in the 1800's - ejecting mass equivalent to 10 times the mass of our sun- and briefly becoming the 2nd brightest star in the night sky.

It didn't however, completely destroy itself by becoming a supernova- however astronomers believe this could happen at any time- e.g. 4pm next tuesday.

When it does, the process will lead to the formation of a black hole and release an incredible amount of energy in the form of gamma rays. If these hit us, they will sterilize the Earth by destroying our protective ozone layer entirely.

We will have no warning.

The other problem is that this thing is 7500 light years away- which means that it has probably already happened. The gamma rays are on their way. Ciao!

link here to Astronomycast podcast about gamma ray bursts.

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