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'Death Star' Aimed at Earth

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the don't-destroy-earth-that's-where-i-keep-my-stuff dept.

Space 400

An anonymous reader writes "A spectacular, rotating binary star system is a ticking time bomb, ready to throw out a searing beam of high-energy gamma rays that could lead to a major extinction event — and Earth may be right in the line of fire. Australian science magazine Cosmos Magazine reports: 'Though the risk may be remote, there is evidence that gamma ray bursts have swept over the planet at various points in Earth's history with a devastating effect on life. A 2005 study showed that a gamma-ray burst originating within 6,500 light years of Earth could be enough to strip away the ozone layer and cause a mass extinction. Researchers led by Adrian Melott at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, U.S., suggest that such an event may have been responsible for a mass extinction 443 million years ago, in the late Ordovician period, which wiped out 60 per cent of life and cooled the planet.'"

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lies, Lies, LIES!!! (5, Funny)

grub (11606) | more than 6 years ago | (#22640496)


443 million years ago

How do these fancy-pants "scientists" know what happened 442,994,000 years before Earth was created?

I asked GOD (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22640922)

God, a ./'er asked"

How do these fancy-pants "scientists" know what happened 442,994,000 years before Earth was created?

God: Don't bug me, it is still the 7th day.

Human: Can't be!

God: You think 1 day to me is like one day to you? You arrogant twit, 1 billion of your years is one day to me.

Re:I asked GOD (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22640986)

That would explain why his ping sucks in TF2.

Re:lies, Lies, LIES!!! (4, Funny)

The-Bus (138060) | more than 6 years ago | (#22641060)

Not only that, but the event is "6,500 light years" away; that's far, far in the future. According to my Kansas Board of Education approved science book, Judgment will come upon us before that time.

Thanks guys (5, Informative)

NIckGorton (974753) | more than 6 years ago | (#22640498)

Further research would be required to determine if we are exactly in line with the axis of the system - but even if we are, we probably still have hundreds of thousands of years to come up with a solution, said Tuthill.
Thanks for putting that at the end of TFA. Now I need to go change my shorts.

Re:Thanks guys (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22640816)

Right! If all these damn scientists would stop wasting precious resources (time, money, etc...) on discovering what could possibly occur in "hundreds of thousands of years" and instead started focusing on what could possibly occur in 1000 years, we'd likely be better off. Hell, for all we know, in under "hundreds of thousands of years" some massive force could shift Earth's orbit so much so that we plummet into the sun or fly off into space, and our planet and species may not even be around for these supposed gamma rays to do any harm in the first place...

Re:Thanks guys (4, Informative)

KwKSilver (857599) | more than 6 years ago | (#22641176)

Not only that, but the star is 8000 light years distant, and the danger-zone was cited as 6500 light years. Even allowing for a 10% error in both figures...

Thanks Global Warming (2, Funny)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 6 years ago | (#22640516)

If these rays cool the planet, and Global Warming warms the planet, we should stay a nice luke-warm and be fine, right?

If not, can't we just count on that layer of lead-based space debris to block the gamma rays? No? well then, feets don't fail me now!

Re:Thanks Global Warming (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22640588)

It's bush's Fault and Hillary will tax it. Think Green

Re:Thanks Global Warming (4, Funny)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 6 years ago | (#22640826)

If these rays cool the planet, and Global Warming warms the planet, we should stay a nice luke-warm and be fine, right?

Except for the searing ultraviolet from a lack of ozone, I would say you are about spot on.

Re:Thanks Global Warming (4, Insightful)

ajs (35943) | more than 6 years ago | (#22640846)

If these rays cool the planet, and Global Warming warms the planet, we should stay a nice luke-warm and be fine, right?
You're mis-reading the quote. The event cooled the planet, not the rays. Likely that was a result of secondary effects. For example, killing 60% of living things would result in lots of barren land which would produce large amounts of dust. That may have been what produced the cooling effect.

Re:Thanks Global Warming (1)

rdean400 (322321) | more than 6 years ago | (#22641156)

Since Ozone is a greenhouse gas, being stripped of the ozone layer would seem to act as a brake on global warming.

Atmosphere? What atmosphere? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22640946)

I saw a show a year or two ago that said scientists believe the earth could soon lose its atmosphere in same the way that they think Mars once did due to the flipping or loss of its magnetic field as the core continues to flow and cool. I can't recall the name of the show but a quick Google show that Nova covered this in 2003. [pbs.org]

Re:Atmosphere? What atmosphere? (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22641206)

What the fuck is with the recent trend of indiscriminately modding down ACs? Parent did NOTHING to detract from the discussion.

Re:Atmosphere? What atmosphere? (5, Informative)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 6 years ago | (#22641310)

Nah, polarity flips have been happening for a long time; if we lost our atmosphere every time, this planet would LOOK like mars...Anyway, Mars has no atmosphere because it's too small, not because it doesn't have a liquid core with the attendant magnetic field. Losing the magnetic field (which may or may not happen during a flip...Geologic data isn't precise enough to tell) could cause some problems with regards to the solar wind, but complete loss of atmosphere is extremely unlikely.

The average period between pole flips is about 250,000 years, so that will give you a pretty good idea of how often it happens, and how unlikely it is that atmospheric loss follows. For the curious, it's been about 800,000 years since the last flip, so we're due one.

Re:Thanks Global Warming (2, Funny)

Vexor (947598) | more than 6 years ago | (#22641100)

Everybody know that's Nuclear Winter will cancel out Global Warming.

Oh come on! (4, Funny)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 6 years ago | (#22640528)

You mean I've been driving a Prius and spending my beer money on renewable energy only to have this happen!??!

Re:Oh come on! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22640670)

I blame that bitch princess that wouldn't tell the beings from Omicron Persei Eight where the rebel base is.

Ob. Simpsons Quote (5, Funny)

phillymjs (234426) | more than 6 years ago | (#22640970)

You mean I've been driving a Prius and spending my beer money on renewable energy only to have this happen!??!

Bart: Aw, recycling's useless, Lis. Once the Sun burns out, this planet is doomed. You're just making sure we spend our last days using inferior products.

~Philly

Uhhhh (1)

jag7720 (685739) | more than 6 years ago | (#22640546)

This is so completely stupid... next we will find out that the sun will burn out in 6 million years.... crap, there goes my retirement.

Re:Uhhhh (1)

KublaiKhan (522918) | more than 6 years ago | (#22640706)

That's alright, the sun should be good for another 10 billion, give or take a few.

O'course, the earth will be uninhabitable in about 7 billion, so...

Episode of Sliders (2, Informative)

celnick (78658) | more than 6 years ago | (#22640558)

Didn't I see this when it was an episode of Sliders. For once, my watching an obscure science fiction show comes in handy. There was a parallel earth where a pulsar was heading towards earth and was gonna irradiate it and cause a mass extinction event.

Good show, had some hot geeky chicks on it for awhile.

Re:Episode of Sliders (4, Insightful)

phillymjs (234426) | more than 6 years ago | (#22640880)

The science on that episode (and most later episodes) was like the computer terminology thrown around in Hackers-- if you knew how wrong it was, it was almost painful to watch/hear. IIRC, the pulsars looked like empty toilet paper rolls with light coming out of the ends. And they didn't just irradiate Earth and leave it physically intact but lifeless, they made it blow up. Ugh, I'm shaking my head in disgust at the mere memory of it.

That show started off great and is 100% responsible for me getting interested in the alternate-history genre. Unfortunately, after the creator left they just resorted to stealing movie plots and it got downright ridiculous and pathetic.

~Philly

Re:Episode of Sliders (1)

hardburn (141468) | more than 6 years ago | (#22641148)

In fact, I think it was that exact set of episodes where the professor gets killed and the show officially jumped the shark.

OH NOES (1)

snarfies (115214) | more than 6 years ago | (#22640564)

We're doomed.

Oh, wait, HOW long will it take this radiation to reach Earth from 6,500 light years away?

Re:OH NOES (5, Funny)

NIckGorton (974753) | more than 6 years ago | (#22640618)

Oh, wait, HOW long will it take this radiation to reach Earth from 6,500 light years away?
Next Thursday if it went Supernova 6,499.99 years ago.

Re:OH NOES (5, Insightful)

kemenaran (1129201) | more than 6 years ago | (#22640634)

The problem is that we see the star as it was 6500 years ago. As far as we know, it could have already exploded, and a good bunch of gamma rays be coming to us right now. So you were right, we're doomed ^^

We can hope ... (0, Flamebait)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 6 years ago | (#22640842)

The problem is that we see the star as it was 6500 years ago. As far as we know, it could have already exploded, and a good bunch of gamma rays be coming to us right now. So you were right, we're doomed ^^

It'll at least spare us any more Chillary.

Oh, wait - we're doomed either way. F$ck! I knew I should have stayed in bed!

Re:OH NOES (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22640898)

The problem is that we see the star as it was 6500 years ago. As far as we know, it could have already exploded, and a good bunch of gamma rays be coming to us right now.

So you were right, we're doomed ^^
Well hey, quite obviously we need to have some interstellar outpost that could alert us to this this potential disaster.

Re:OH NOES (1)

hardburn (141468) | more than 6 years ago | (#22641202)

I'm waiting for a smarty-pants (but wrong) astrophysicist to flame you for not recognizing that unless an event's light cone hits you, it hasn't actually happened yet.

Re:OH NOES (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 6 years ago | (#22641372)

And don't forget that we have closer neighbors that can cause us a lot more trouble.

For example Betelgeuse [thefreedictionary.com] is a read supergiant about 527 lightyears away. (the distance seems to be very unclear, one source says 586, another says 310, Google says 427, but one thing is at least clear IT'S THERE)

Anyway if that star decides to go supernova (or any other in our neighborhood) we will get a slight tan at least... And according to some experts Betelgeuse is ripe for blowing.

So it's likely that we are going to experience a supernova or any other stellar event that affects our world in a much more severe manner than we can do ourselves. The only question is when - and it is no idea to worry about it since we can do very little about it.

Re:OH NOES (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22640664)

It would happen instantaneously from our POV.

Don't tase me, bro ... (4, Funny)

BenBoy (615230) | more than 6 years ago | (#22640578)

Had to be said ...

Re:Don't tase me, bro ... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22641166)

If that's what millions of voices will be suddenly crying out in terror, they deserve to be suddenly silenced.

Well guys.. (5, Funny)

ben0207 (845105) | more than 6 years ago | (#22640580)

It was nice knowing you.

Re:Well guys.. (1, Informative)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 6 years ago | (#22641044)

It was nice knowing you.

It's OK! Barack Obama will know what to do! If this thing can just... hold... off... until... next... year.

Maybe if we just planned an unconditional sit-down with the people running that star, they'd like us again.

lead paint (4, Funny)

spikenerd (642677) | more than 6 years ago | (#22640582)

I own a very old house with lead paint all over the ceiling. Since your survival depends on renting my basement, I think I'll start the bidding at $100,000/mo+utils, no pets.

No Fear (1)

zgregoryg (1061612) | more than 6 years ago | (#22640584)

8,000 light years away? Well if we make it another 8,000 years then we can worry about it.

Re:No Fear (1)

Amouth (879122) | more than 6 years ago | (#22640892)

except we are looking at it from our point of view.. which is what it looked like 8,000 light years away.. which means it is posiable to that ithas gone off.. just .. the light and gama ray's havn't gotten here yet..

Not my problem (5, Insightful)

dasbush (1143709) | more than 6 years ago | (#22640598)

Further research would be required to determine if we are exactly in line with the axis of the system - but even if we are, we probably still have hundreds of thousands of years to come up with a solution, said Tuthill.
I'll just leave this little problem to my great(x1428) grandchildren to deal with.

30 minutes until we're in range. (1)

Aegis Runestone (1248876) | more than 6 years ago | (#22640616)

"30 minutes until we're in range of the Earth."
"No, I say we're in range now."
*Jupiter, and Mars are destroyed, and on earth*
"... Oh crap."

I'll ignore it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22640650)

If I was actively looking for things that could or would kill me, I wouldn't bother working.

So I'll drink beer while you guys worry about global warming, super bugs and sentient robots.

Gamma? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22640654)

So if 60% of us are wiped out, what kinds of superpowers can the rest of us expect?

No problem (4, Funny)

eln (21727) | more than 6 years ago | (#22640682)

This is really no problem at all. I'm sure we'll find a critical flaw in the star that will allow us to destroy it in the nick of time. Possibly an exhaust port or something like that.

Re:No problem (1)

explosivejared (1186049) | more than 6 years ago | (#22640862)

Yeah, we can just take the routine "nuke it from orbit... it's the only way to be sure" actions. Whew!!! Problem solved!!

Wait! What do you mean stars are basically just big long continuous nuclear reactions and nuking it only makes it worse?!

I agree with that guy earlier... we're doomed.

Re:No problem (5, Funny)

Arimus (198136) | more than 6 years ago | (#22640964)

Sorry, exhaust port is out. I put some chicken mesh over the exhaust port and held it place with blutack and duck tape - nothing will dislodge the combined powers of the dark forces holding the mesh in place.

I've also trained the gunners as to what the rebel ships look like and what the empire ships look like together with electro therapy they now know what to shoot at.

The major commander on the death star will not be on board one of the fighters defending it.

And anyway when the heroes first arrive on the station they will be taken, under armed guard, placed against the nearest wall and shot. Following being shot they will have their heads chopped off while I watch giving no chance for them to stage a stunning escape and disrupt my evil plans. This death will lack drama will be simple, won't go wrong, will make a mess - but hey, I've got an army of evil underlings who can clean up.

Please God, no... (4, Funny)

d34thm0nk3y (653414) | more than 6 years ago | (#22640690)

if years > 6000 and state == Kansas: Bad_Evolution_Jokes()

Re:Please God, no... (1)

andphi (899406) | more than 6 years ago | (#22640928)

I think that function name is malformed. You forgot the verb. :) Should it have been getBadEvolutionJokes, putBadEvolutionJokes, listBadEvolutionJokes or modDownBadEvolutionJokes?

From TFA (2, Funny)

pedropolis (928836) | more than 6 years ago | (#22640694)

"A 2005 study showed that a gamma-ray burst originating within 6,500 light years of Earth could be enough to strip away the ozone layer and cause a mass extinction." The system in question is 8,000 light years away. So it's all good. Besides, we all know Uranus gets hit first...

Yeah, I'm really gonna worry about this (1)

Master of Transhuman (597628) | more than 6 years ago | (#22640708)

With time lags between events of 400-plus million years, I really have to worry about this happening in my lifetime.

Nitwits.

Re:Yeah, I'm really gonna worry about this (1)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 6 years ago | (#22641034)

This start might have exploded 399 million years, 11 months, 30 days and 23 hours ago. So you'll its gamma ray burst will reach the Earth in an hour.

Cool ! (1)

kemenaran (1129201) | more than 6 years ago | (#22640714)

The first thought I had reading this was "hey, this is coool !" Honestly, what is better than to be destroyed by a huge cosmic gamma-ray beam ? It's even better than to be wiped out by huge vogons spaceships to make room for a galactic highway !

Hmm let's think about this a sec... (1)

ZonkerWilliam (953437) | more than 6 years ago | (#22640756)

At a distance of 8,000 light years from Earth, the pair of stars are a short hop away in galactic terms

And we are looking back 8000 years from today, since light took us 8,000 years to get to us. It will take another 8,000 years for a gamma blast to get to us. Something tells me were out of harms way.

Re:Hmm let's think about this a sec... (1)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 6 years ago | (#22640908)

And we are looking back 8000 years from today, since light took us 8,000 years to get to us. It will take another 8,000 years for a gamma blast to get to us. Something tells me were out of harms way.


My god, man, think of the children! Someone please think of the children!

Re:Hmm let's think about this a sec... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22640936)


It will take another 8,000 years for a gamma blast to get to us. Something tells me were out of harms way.


You are assuming that the blast didn't occur 8000 years ago.

Re:Hmm let's think about this a sec... (1)

ZonkerWilliam (953437) | more than 6 years ago | (#22641128)

If it did then we would know about it, real soon. But, for every day it doesn't the more and more we move away from being lined up. If it happened 7000 years ago, it will be another 1000 years before we see anything.

Cosmos Magazine reports (5, Funny)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | more than 6 years ago | (#22640770)

>> Cosmos Magazine reports

Other articles include:

10 Fabulous Handbags for the Apocalypse
Is Your Man Cheating? Find Out With A Quantum Telescope.
Lose Weight Fast - New Dark Matter Diet.

Never fear! (1)

caywen (942955) | more than 6 years ago | (#22640938)

Google will save us! We just need to drive its stock price to $1000/share and they will solve this problem.

Slashdot has fallen behind (0, Troll)

syousef (465911) | more than 6 years ago | (#22640968)

It use to be that I'd first read this sort of news on slashdot, but either slashdot has fallen behind, or my local paper's improved greatly. I think the former. These days I read about it in the local paper first and a day or two later I read about it on slashdot. Then it gets duped a few days/weeks/months/years later.

"Paging Dr. Banner" (3, Funny)

Mr Z (6791) | more than 6 years ago | (#22641022)

If this happens, don't make anyone angry. You wouldn't like them when they're angry.

--Joe

Re:"Paging Dr. Banner" (1)

Samgilljoy (1147203) | more than 6 years ago | (#22641220)

If this happens, don't make anyone angry. You wouldn't like them when they're angry.

Finally! I've had to scroll through the entire list of comments to get to a Hulk reference. Must be my age, I don't know.

At least once the startling metamorphosis occurs, we can just leap up to the star and smash it in revenge.

In other news (1)

ThanatosMinor (1046978) | more than 6 years ago | (#22641056)

After Earth is pummeled with gamma rays, Hulks and Spider-Men become the norm, even passé. Marvel Comics sadly goes out of business.

I thAnk you for your time (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22641078)

into a sling unless Of the warring long time FreeBSD THISt POST BROUGHT their parting it simple, OpenBSD leader Theo This post brought the project to

more importantly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22641088)

Will it hit America first or the rest of the world?

Since the gamma rays move at the speed of light.. (1)

HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) | more than 6 years ago | (#22641102)

How do we know that it hasn't already gone off, and the burst is due to hit us in say, 10 minutes?

Whew, thank goodness (1)

PalmKiller (174161) | more than 6 years ago | (#22641116)

I was worried about global warming, now I know this event will cool the earth off, for the next dominate species.

Death Star? Head to the Hills (1)

oceaniv (1243854) | more than 6 years ago | (#22641132)

Although the hills have eyes. Death Star II: This is a crappy movie isn't it?

Mmmm Gamma rays (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22641136)

The real reason 60% of the living creatures died, not from Gamma Rays directly but from...

HULK SMASH!!!

ObSimpsons (1)

sharkey (16670) | more than 6 years ago | (#22641178)

This is ACTION NEWS, I'm Kent Brockman!!!! First off, let's go to Scott for a report on the killer rotating binary star system!!

Thank you Kent! The death toll is still at zero, but it is getting ready to shoot right up!!

Out of range? (1)

Chysn (898420) | more than 6 years ago | (#22641262)

TFA says

> A 2005 study showed that a gamma-ray burst originating within 6,500 light years of Earth could be enough to strip away the ozone
> layer and cause a mass extinction

TFA also says

> At a distance of 8,000 light years from Earth, the pair of stars are a short hop away in galactic terms

So what they're actually telling us, in a roundabout way, is that there's nothing to worry about.
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