Astronomy

GRBs not fatal for life in early universe

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Science  02 Oct 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6256, pp. 53-54
DOI: 10.1126/science.350.6256.53-c

Artist's conception of a gamma-ray burst

PHOTO: ESO/A. ROQUETTE

A nearby gamma-ray burst (GRB) could hugely damage Earth's atmosphere, triggering a mass extinction. GRBs were more common in the early universe, so they might have prevented the early emergence of complex life. Li and Zhang have tested this idea by calculating how often planets would be struck by a dangerously close GRB. Examining how this changes over time, and between different galaxy types, they show that reasonably safe locations existed even when the universe was a third of its current age. Intriguingly, the most likely safe location is in the outskirts of a massive blue galaxy—just where we find Earth.

Astrophys. J. 810, 41 (2015).

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