4 Ways The World Could End In Your Lifetime (And 3 Ways We Can Stop It)

7. Gamma Ray Bursts Will Fry The Earth

Gamma Ray Bursts

You know what's fun? Learning. You know what's not fun? Learning about the huge bursts of ionising radiation that could bathe our planet in certain death at any moment without any warning whatsoever.

We are talking, of course, about gamma ray bursts.

When stars go supernova, they release a great pulse of gamma rays that hurtle through space with murderous intent (probably). Thankfully, our handily placed atmosphere scatters most of it, turning it into UV light and ultimately only letting 0.2% of it all the way down to the surface. This is great, and one of the reasons why we're not all dead yet.

However, should something big in the galaxy goes hypernova any time soon, a great cone of this stuff is going to come flying at us at the speed of light, slamming into our atmosphere and delivering as much as 40 times the amount of UV to the surface that we currently get from the sun. Not only this, but it would set about ionising the molecules that make up our atmosphere, leaving us with a nitrous oxide layer as opposed to an ozone one.

The upshot of all of this is massive doses of radiation, total ecosystem collapse and mass extinction and, if it all sounds a bit unlikely, there are those who hypothesize that it has even happened before.

First Posted On: 

Writer. Raconteur. Gardeners' World Enthusiast.