Space & Astronomy
Could Eta Carinae explode and wipe us out ?
December 19, 2014 | 24 comments
An artist's impression of a supernova explosion. Image Credit: CC BY 4.0 ESO/M. Kornmesser
A massive and volatile star located 7,500 light years away is on the verge of going supernova.
Social media has been abuzz lately with the news that a huge star called Eta Carinae might soon explode, causing a devastating burst of gamma rays capable of eradicating all life on our planet.
The star is around 120 times the weight and 240 times the size of our sun, a cosmic behemoth that is literally tearing itself apart by the strength of its own light and heat. It is even possible that the star may have already exploded thousands of years ago.
Fortunately however the rumors of an impending apocalypse have been greatly exaggerated.
"Thereís no danger from this star exploding as we simply arenít close enough to it and itís not pointing in our direction in any case," said Dr Alan Duffy. "It would have to be really close for a sterilisation event - well within 100s of light years not the thousands like Eta Carinae."
So while the explosion would be bad news for any inhabited planets in its vicinity, we are fortunately too far away from it for it to have any impact. Even if it were pointing in our direction, which it isn't, by the time the gamma ray burst reached us it would have mostly dissipated and Earth's magnetic field and atmosphere would have protected us from what was left.
Far from being a harbinger of the apocalypse, the star's destruction would have actually provided us with one of the most memorable astronomical light shows the world has ever seen.
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