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hwsoderlund

What happens if Betelgeuse goes supernova?

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The first article refers to a gamma ray burst in a galaxy 7 billion light years away. The precise nature of gamma ray bursts is not yet understood but they aren't associated with ordinary supernova explosions of the kind that Betelgeuse is likely to undergo. The article does not make this clear (it's apparently recycled from CNN who got it from NASA, so some science got lost in the re-telling).

A supernova at the distance of Betelgeuse is not considered a threat. Would be great to see, though.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Near-Earth_supernova

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamma-ray_burst

According to Wikipedia, anything less than 100 light years is "close", and supernovae within 33 light years happen on average once every 240 million years. That means a few must have happened during the history of life on earth.

Also check out this thread:

http://stargazerslounge.com/showthread.php?t=186708

Happily, there is very few stars of any giant magnitude in the vicinity of the solar system

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Although not a direct threat, it would pose problems for space travel. It has been predicted that the proton flux from 10 solar masses of high energy protons expected from Betelgeuse's supernova would collapse the Suns magnetopause to perhaps slightly less than the radius of Earth's orbit. As highlighted above, Betelgeuse isn't expected to produce a gamma ray burst.

A bigger worry from a gamma-ray perspective is Wolf-Rayet stars. For example, WR 104 is located approximately 8000 light years away and some obsevations suggest it's axis is pointed within 16 degrees of Earth (other measurements suggest perhaps 30-40 degrees). If it's resulting hypernova created a gamma ray burst and it was directed towards Earth a 10 second blast could deplete the ozone layer by approximately 25% whilst the side facing the beam wouild suffer potentially lethel radiation exposure. At a distance of 8000 ly.

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It's really not worth worrying about it. I'm sure we have little to fear from Betelgeuse.

Their are others things out there much closer to us that ARE at some point going to cause us serious harm, and could happen at any moment really, such as a rather large rock falling from the sky.

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I have to say how cool would it be to see that in our lifetime a "Near By" super nova

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Whenever you kids see a bright light shine in the sky...   :p

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Edited by Macavity
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Nothing happens to us if it blows.

Actually, it probably would have some effect on our atmosphere, just not enough to cause any problems. Nitrate deposits have been found in ice cores corresponding to the dates of historical supernova, such as SN1006 which is much further away than Betelgeuse. Gamma rays from a supernova can cause the formation of nitrogen oxides. It's staggering to think that a star several hundred light years ago can reach out and touch our planet, but the evidence is there.

I think I'm right in saying that Betelgeuse could do our atmosphere serious damage if it was pointed at us, most of the gamma rays are emitted from the poles in a supernova explosion. Fortunately, if it is a loaded gun then it appears to be aimed elsewhere.

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