New supernova research suggests that the energy unleashed when a star dies could be more damaging to nearby planets than previously believed. The study, published in The Astrophysical Journal, used data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and other X-ray observatories.
According to the findings presented in the new study, supernovas may cause damage to planets located within 160 light-years. The danger, the researchers write, lies in an intense set of X-rays unleashed by the supernova. These X-rays may be capable of changing the atmosphere of affected planets entirely.
It’s a terrible thing to discover and one that will no doubt raise concerns about how Earth’s atmosphere might change if a supernova went off near us. Thankfully, as the researchers note in a press release on the findings, Earth is not at risk as no supernova progenitors lie within that distance.
Still, to have supernova research uncovering such a startling discovery raises questions about how supernovas near other planets we have studied might have changed the atmospheres we are now looking at. In fact, it raises many questions about how many planets out there may have been altered over the universe’s past several billion years.
The death of a star is already a terrifying enough event. However, now understanding that a supernova may pose some threat to planets around it brings even more depth and danger to these cosmic events. Further, it could help researchers learn more about how supernovas affect the evolution of our universe, too.
We know that all stars must die at some point. Even our own Sun will reach a point of death sometime far in the future. It’s already believed that humanity will most likely have ceased to exist by that time, but it would be intriguing to see how the Sun’s supernova could change Earth’s atmosphere.