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Nearby supernova blasts may be culprits in at least one mass extinction

24 Aug 2020, 14:29 UTC
Nearby supernova blasts may be culprits in at least one mass extinction
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A frame from a simulation showing how a flood of radiation from a presumed supernova some 65 light years away could have compressed the solar wind and subjected Earth to an extended period of ozone depletion, triggering a mass extinction at the end of the Devonian period. Earth’s orbit is represented by the blue dashed circle; the Sun is represented by the red dot at centre. Image: Jesse Miller
A flood of high-energy radiation and cosmic rays from one or more nearby supernova blasts may have triggered at least one of Earth’s mass extinctions, researchers say, wrecking the planet’s protective ozone layer for an extended period some 359 million years ago
“Earth-based catastrophes such as large-scale volcanism and global warming can destroy the ozone layer, too, but evidence for those is inconclusive for the time interval in question,” said Brian Fields, an astronomy and physics professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
“Instead, we propose that one or more supernova explosions, about 65 light-years away from Earth, could have been responsible for the protracted loss of ozone.”
The research is outlined in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Fields and his students focused on the boundary between the ...

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