Scientists calculate potential threat of neutron star collision on Earthtext_fields
A neutron star collision - Kilonova - is posing a potential threat to life on Earth.
Kilonova events are considered to be among the most powerful and explosive occurrences in the known universe. This phenomenon raises concern due to the release of lethal radiation, including gamma rays, cosmic rays, and x-rays.
A recent study conducted by scientists in the United States has determined the proximity required for a neutron star collision, known as kilonova, to pose a threat to all life on Earth. Haille Perkins, the team leader and a scientist at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, said, "We found that if a neutron star merger were to occur within around 36 light-years of Earth, the resulting radiation could cause an extinction-level event," reported Space.com.
The collision of ultra-dense neutron stars leads to a particle blast capable of devastating Earth's ozone layer, leaving it susceptible to ultraviolet radiation for the next 1,000 years.
Among the lethal particles examined, cosmic rays were identified as the most significant concern. The collision initiates the formation of an expanding cosmic ray bubble, affecting everything in its path and releasing highly energetic, charged particles onto Earth.
Equally concerning are gamma rays, as they interact with surrounding stardust, or the "interstellar medium," potentially resulting in the emission of X-rays. These X-rays possess a similar ionising impact on Earth's ozone layer.
The researchers clarified that while the duration of these effects surpasses that of gamma rays, making them potentially more dangerous, Earth would need to be within approximately 16 light-years of the event's epicentre to experience these consequences. They also emphasised that there is no immediate need for panic, as Kilonova events are considered rare occurrences.
Haille Perkins noted, "There are several other more common events like solar flares, asteroid impacts, and supernova explosions that have a better chance of being harmful."
The team studied a neutron star merger that occurred in 2017, approximately 130 million light-years away. This event resulted in a violent release of particles weighing about 1,300 times the mass of Earth. Researchers believed this kilonova could provide insights into the origins of certain heavy elements, including platinum, uranium, and gold.