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Space & Astronomy

Could Eta Carinae explode and wipe us out ?

By T.K. Randall
December 19, 2014 · Comment icon 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.
"There's no danger from this star exploding as we simply aren't close enough to it and it's 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.

Source: | Comments (24)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #15 Posted by Oxo1 10 years ago
If asteroids keep missing us, then I'm sure Eta Carinae will pose no threat to us either.
Comment icon #16 Posted by JVG 10 years ago
We will need no help in destroying ourselves..Look at all of the wars we have had in this world and yet we are still here..It is just a matter of time before we destroy all that is good and evil....
Comment icon #17 Posted by libstaK 10 years ago
If the explosion is "imminent" then we are in for a light show right? That would be something to look forward to seeing.
Comment icon #18 Posted by JVG 10 years ago
If the explosion is "imminent" then we are in for a light show right? That would be something to look forward to seeing. Should we book front row seats!!!
Comment icon #19 Posted by Atuke 10 years ago
I guess if it already did and we don't know it yet we will find out....within the next 7,500 years.
Comment icon #20 Posted by qxcontinuum 10 years ago
iT' S alright we are doing so well at destroying ourselves ...
Comment icon #21 Posted by gailforce 10 years ago
chill ever hear about the earths magnetic feald it deflects space junk and radiation on a regular basis worst case scenario it short sorcits the planet and causes a global blackout
Comment icon #22 Posted by Frank Merton 10 years ago
Each of the various ways the Earth could be destroyed or at least sterilized has a small but non-zero probability. Put them all together and it is remarkable life on Earth has had such a long survival history and indicates such lucky planets may rare.
Comment icon #23 Posted by Insanity 10 years ago
The first thing I thought when I read the headline was, "No way, it is too far away." The amount of radiation decreases as the distance from the nova increases. As to being "pointed" at us, I'm not a astrophysicist, but I believe that might be referring to the axis of spin of the star. So, the star would be "pointed" out its "top". Correct. It is likely that a supernova would likely eject a gamma ray burst from both polar regions of its axis, but as currently the rotational axis of Eta Carinae is not pointing at us, the burst probably would miss us. Additionally though, as Eta Carinae is a bin... [More]
Comment icon #24 Posted by kapow53 10 years ago
The sky is also falling and going to kill everything soon. That's why I eat shrimp and red meat and drink alcohol and smoke stuff.

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