Did universe’s most powerful explosion impact Earth in 8th century?
A new study has suggested that a gamma ray burst, the most powerful explosion known in the universe, may have hit the Earth in the 8th Century.
Last year, a team of researchers found evidence that our planet had been struck by a blast of radiation during the Middle Ages, but there was debate over what kind of cosmic event could have caused this.
Now the latest study, published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, suggested that it was the result of two black holes or neutron stars merging in our galaxy.
In 2012, a research team found that some ancient cedar trees in Japan had an unusual level of a radioactive type of carbon known as carbon-14. In Antarctica, too, there was a spike in levels of a form of beryllium - beryllium-10 - in the ice. These isotopes are created when intense radiation hits the atoms in the upper atmosphere, suggesting that a blast of energy had once hit our planet from space.
Although the event sounds dramatic, our medieval ancestors might not have noticed much, the researchers noted. Observations of deep space suggest that gamma ray-bursts are rare. They are thought to happen at the most every 10,000 years per galaxy, and at the least every million years per galaxy.
Prof Neuhauser said it was unlikely Planet Earth would see another one soon, but if we did, this time it could make more of an impact.
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