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In_Flames
03-10-2008, 06:39 PM
A beautiful pinwheel in space might one day blast Earth with death rays, scientists now report.

Unlike the moon-sized Death Star from Star Wars, which has to get close to a planet to blast it, this blazing spiral has the potential to burn worlds from thousands of light-years away.

"I used to appreciate this spiral just for its beautiful form, but now I can't help a twinge of feeling that it is uncannily like looking down a rifle barrel," said researcher Peter Tuthill, an astronomer at the University of Sydney.

The fiery pinwheel in space in question has at its heart a pair of hot, luminous stars locked in orbit with each other. As they circle one another, plumes of streaming gas driven from the surfaces of the stars collide in the intervening space, eventually becoming entangled and twisted into a whirling spiral by the orbits of the stars.



What might happen

Although the pinwheel can't blast Earth apart like the Death Star from Star Wars — at least not from 8,000 light years away — it could still cause mass extinction or possibly even threaten life as we know it on our planet.

Gamma rays would not penetrate Earth's atmosphere well to burn the ground, but they would chemically damage the stratosphere. Melott estimates that if WR 104 were to hit us with a burst 10 seconds or so long, its gamma rays could deplete about 25 percent of the world's ozone layer, which protects us from damaging ultraviolet rays. In comparison, the recent human-caused thinning of the ozone layer, creating "holes" over the polar regions, have only been depletions of about 3 to 4 percent, he explained.

"So that would be very bad," Melott told SPACE.com. "You'd see extinctions. You might see food chain collapses in the oceans, might see agricultural crises with starvation."

Gamma Ray bursts would also trigger smog formation that could blot out sunlight and rain down acid. However, at 8,000 light-years away, "there's probably not a large enough effect there for much of a darkening effect," Melott estimated. "It'd probably cut off 1 or 2 percent of total sunlight. It might cool the climate somewhat, but it wouldn't be a catastrophic ice age kind of thing."

Full Article HERE (http://news.yahoo.com/s/space/20080310/sc_space/realdeathstarcouldstrikeearth)

KnifeOfTheDead
07-17-2008, 11:18 PM
huh. interesting. a colorful pinwheel could kill us all. that sounds really girly (no offense, unless your a girl who likes that kind of stuff). it'd be quite amazing if it happened.

Tetragrammaton
07-19-2008, 12:55 PM
I love astronomy, but enough with the doomsday scenarios from astronomers. If we can't stop it, don't tell us about it. You just worry us.

Miamian
07-19-2008, 03:38 PM
I love astronomy, but enough with the doomsday scenarios from astronomers. If we can't stop it, don't tell us about it. You just worry us.
Where there's a will there's a way.