Tag Archives | Gamma Rays

The NASA Team Keeping Tabs on Intergalactic Death Rays

Intergalactic death rays are just so sexy deadly… BBC Future reports on the NASA team trying to help us avoid gamma ray bursts:

You do not want to get in the way of a gamma ray burst.

Gamma Decay.svg

Illustration of an emission of a gamma ray (γ) from an atomic nucleus


“They’re the most luminous, high energy explosions that have happened since the Big Bang,” says Neil Gehrels, principal investigator at Nasa for the Swift mission. “It’s like a beam of gamma radiation that’s flying through the Universe.”

What would happen if one of these cosmic death rays of high frequency electromagnetic waves hit the Earth?

“For a planet 1000 light years away, it would destroy the ozone layer. If it was just 100 light years away it could blow the atmosphere off,” says Gehrels matter-of-factly.

“The chances of that happening to the Earth is fairly small, about once in a billion years,” he adds.

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A Gamma Ray Blast Irradiated The Earth In The Eighth Century

Radiation in centuries-old tree rings reveals what occurred. If the event were to repeat itself today, it could wreak havoc on humankind’s technology. Phys.org writes:

A nearby short duration gamma-ray burst may be the cause of an intense blast of high-energy radiation that hit the Earth in the 8th century, according to new research led by astronomers Valeri Hambaryan and Ralph Neuhӓuser, based at the Astrophysics Institute of the University of Jena in Germany.

In 2012 scientist Fusa Miyake announced the detection of high levels of the isotope Carbon-14 and Beryllium-10 in tree rings formed in 775 CE, suggesting that a burst of radiation struck the Earth in the year 774 or 775.

Drs. Hambaryan and Neuhӓuser suggest that two compact stellar remnants, i.e. black holes, neutron stars or white dwarfs, collided and merged together. When this happens, some energy is released in the form of gamma rays. If they are right, then this would explain why no records exist of a supernova or auroral display.

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Thunderstorms Generate Antimatter Beams

Antimatter Cloud (NASA)

Antimatter Cloud (NASA)

It sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but scientists are reporting that they have seen antimatter beams emitted from thunderstorms. Jonathan Palmer has the story at BBC News:

A space telescope has accidentally spotted thunderstorms on Earth producing beams of antimatter.

Such storms have long been known to give rise to fleeting sparks of light called terrestrial gamma-ray flashes. But results from the Fermi telescope show they also give out streams of electrons and their antimatter counterparts, positrons.

The surprise result was presented by researchers at the American Astronomical Society meeting in the US.

It deepens a mystery about terrestrial gamma-ray flashes, or TGFs — sparks of light that are estimated to occur 500 times a day in thunderstorms on Earth. They are a complex interplay of light and matter whose origin is poorly understood.

Thunderstorms are known to create tremendously high electric fields — evidenced by lightning strikes.

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The Day Earth Survived the Greatest Stellar Attack, Ever

EarthAttackCasey Kazan writes on the Daily Galaxy:

It came suddenly from the distant reaches of the Constellation Sagittarius, some 50,000 light years away. For a brief instant, a couple of tenths of a second, on December 27, 2004 an invisible burst of energy the equivalent of half a million years of sunlight shone on Earth. Many orbiting satellites electronics were zapped and the Earth’s upper atmosphere was amazingly ionized from a massive hit of gamma ray energy.

The source of the invisible attack was a rare magnetar SGR 1806-20 on the other side of the Milky Way. These soft gamma ray repeaters, SGRs, occur when twisted magnetic fields attempt to realign themselves and crack the magetar’s crust releasing the awesome burst or pulse of energy with a death zone of a few light years. Magnetars have magnetic fields 1000 times those of ordinary pulsars — so powerful as to be lethal at a distance of 1000 kilometers.

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