Death From Space — Gamma-Ray Bursts Explained

Imagine you could collect energy from all the stars a hundred million light years away from thousands of galaxies, each with billions of stars. Imagine you could take that kind of power and use it to find the greatest super weapon in the universe. Imagine the damage you could cause. It turns out that you don't need to imagine it .. it already exists and we call it "gamma ray burst" (GRB in English).

What are these cosmic snipers? and what would happen if a shot hit the Earth? 

To understand Gamma-ray bursts first we need to understand the gamma rays Gamma rays are magnetic radiation .Waves capable of energy like visible light Visible light is a tiny part of the electromagnetic spectrum This is the part your eye can see .At lower energies there are radio waves, microwaves and infrared. And at higher energies the X-ray, Ultraviolet and Gamma rays Gamma rays are incredibly powerful.

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

A single gamma ray photon has more energy than a million visible photons combined. Their high energy make Gamma rays a form of ionizing radiation. Which means that their energy is sufficient to break the atomic bonds .It makes them dangerous for you and me Ionizing radiation upsets the delicate biochemical machinery that keeps us alive like a 9mm bullet through a clock. Fortunately, on Earth, the ozone layer blocks Gammas rays, filtering them before they can harm us. but if the ozone layer blocks the gamma rays coming from space

Where and how were the gamma rays from space discovered?

During the Cold War, The US has sent spy satellites to detect gamma rays from Soviet nuclear tests in space. They did not observe any bombs, but they observed weak fragments coming from space for only a few seconds. To date, this fact is the only major scientific result discovered by spy satellites (of which we are aware ...) Astronomers use telescopes to see different types of lights in order to make their discoveries. And these spy satellites brought a new vision. They have been a mystery for 30 years but may be we will discover the source of GRB: a galaxy 6 billion light years away If GRB can be seen from this far, it is incredibly energetic it is more energetic in a second than the sun during the 10 billion years of its life .

What makes GRB, the brightest event in the universe and where does it come from?

The GRB, accompanies some of the most violent, deadly cataclysms in the universe and the birth of black holes.There are 2 types of gamma ray emissions Short and long, each of which has its own source long GRB, above a minute, scientists think they are emitted by supernovas when the body of a massive star collapses to form a black hole .Short GRBs last one second and are produced when two neutron stars enter binary fusion. For millions of years, their orbits move closer together, emitting gravitational waves .

Once they are close enough, they fall into it forming a black hole Supernovae and neutron stars emerge in the same thing: The black holes, surrounded by magnetic fields made of gas left by the stars that formed it In this environment, the rotation of the winds above the magnetic fields, with a tunnel rejecting jets of hot particles reject at a speed close to that of light. This gas in this tunnel creates two tight jets of high energy of Gammas rays, like a galactic laser gun, so unlike cosmic explosions, with releases of dispersed particles, GRBs remain concentrated and can therefore be seen from much further away.

The universe is filled with these cosmic snipers, shooting blindly and randomly in the dark and affect us all the time. On average, we detect one a day, hours, most are harmless. All the radiation detected is far away and outside the Milky Way, so too far to reach us. But a nearby GRB can be disastrous, If one of them was a few light years away, it would burn the entire surface of the Earth. Where at best, the half facing him. But a more distant GRB can still destroy life on Earth. And he won't have to take a shot in the head to kill us If it came from about a thousand light years away, It would be a hundred light years wide when it reached us, and destroy the solar system like a tidal wave.

Again, the ozone layer protects us, but it is more made to protect from UV rays from the sun. A gamma ray can submerge it, leaving us exposed to the sun's radiation. Ozone takes years to reform naturally which takes longer before the sun makes the Earth sterile. Or at best, destroy all complex life. In fact, this event has already happened. A GRB is one of the probable causes of the extinction of the Ordovician-Silurian 450 million years ago, which eradicated more than 85% of marine species. But it is rather impossible to prove. The bursts of Gammas rays may be a reason that we don't see any other form of life in the universe They could destroy certain life forms on a regular basis. This hypothesis comes from the fact that, because of GRB, only 10% of galaxies can shelter life,

So are we going to die? 

Probably not. In a galaxy like ours, we only have one GRB per millennium. And to impact us, it would have to be focused and directed towards us. But since gamma rays travel at the speed of light, we can't know when it's going to affect us. So a GRB may be on its way to kill us all, but we don't know until it hits us, and that we are dead. 

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