A nearby supernova could destroy large animals millions of years ago

Despite the fact that the Earth floats in the void, she is not in a vacuum. The planet is constantly bombarded with all sorts of things from space, including a daily stream of micrometeorites and the radiation flux of the Sun and more distant stars. Sometimes things from space can maim or kill us — remember the giant asteroid that killed the dinosaurs. Most of the star dust fall on the earth and the moon, and then peacefully settling, remaining buried until then, until scientists can’t dig.

Supernova destroys the species?

If dark matter exists, it probably belongs to the latter category. If the hypothetical weakly interacting massive particles (wimpy) real, their collisions with ordinary matter, can leave traces in the fossil record in the depths of the earth’s species. We have previously written about what a group of physicists suggested that such kind of search for dark matter.

But the search for space debris in the Earth has a long history. Other scientists have demonstrated that it is possible to find fossils of astrophysical particles in the earth’s crust. Some researchers speculate about how these cosmic events affect the Land — because they could change the course of evolution. A new study suggests that the energy particles, exploding stars may have contributed to the extinction of many megafauna including prehistoric monster shark the Megalodon, which went extinct about at the same time.

“Interesting coincidence,” says Adrian Melott, an astrophysicist from the University of Kansas and author of the new work.

When a star dies, its guts scattered in space. Among these stellar remnants are the isotopes, or variants, of such elements as iron. One of these isotopes, iron-60, is rare on Earth but abundant is present in a supernova. In 2016 and 2017 astrophysicists have detected iron-60 on the seabed of the Earth and the moon, and attributed its origin to two ancient supernovae in the galactic vicinity of Earth. According to scientists, one event occurred about 2.6 million years ago and the other from 6.5 to 8.7 million years ago.

“Many things wouldn’t have left a particular sediment,” says Melott. But iron-60 leaves. “This is a direct allusion to the incident”.

Armed with this hint, Malott asked the question that scholars have pondered since the 1950s years at least: how do these supernova could affect the Earth and life here? In his new article, he describes how a supernova can produce a stream of subatomic particles — muons — which can damage DNA, leading to widespread mutations of organisms and even species extinction.

The muon is a kind of super-heavy electrons. They can swim through the Earth’s atmosphere even lighter than protons and electrons. “They fall to the ground, fall on you, some of them will interact with you and damage your DNA,” says Melott. “They are in a great position to affect terrestrial life.”

Malott suggested that a supernova about 2.6 million years ago, could increase the flow of muons passing through the atmosphere, several hundred times. Together with colleagues, he calculated that the incidence of cancer could increase by 50% for animals the size of a man. Malott said that the mammoth or the Megalodon is the size of a school bus — irradiation dose could be even worse.

The idea that supernovae can affect life on Earth, is not something new. Paleontologist Otto Schindewolf in 1950-ies suggested that supernovae could cause mutations in large animals. But his theory did not gain popularity. In 1968 gdu astronomers K. D. Terry and W. H. Tucker suggested that the mass extinction could have been caused by explosions of stars nearby, and since this theory several times referred.

However, most theories put the causes of the extinctions are climate change, rather than direct mutation. Supernova explosions can destroy the ozone layer of the Earth that can cause damage to marine plankton and coral reefs. A supernova can also generate an excess of cosmic rays, which can lead to the formation of clouds, and they, in turn, to a “cosmic ray winter”, says Henrik Svensmark from the Technical University of Denmark.

Work Svensmark shows that geological data of the Earth in some cases coincide with the expected flux of cosmic rays associated with the supernova. And in 1995, physicists John Ellis and David Schramm came to the conclusion that catastrophic supernova can be expected every few hundred million years in accordance with the rate of mass extinction.

With regard to hypothesis, Melott that a single supernova 2.6 million years ago led directly to the extinction of a species, he cites some evidence. On the border of the Pliocene and Pleistocene 2.6 million years ago extinct about 36% of marine species, mainly in coastal waters. The larger animals were to catch a higher dose of muons in the regions.

But unlike the iron-60 and vinov, muons leave almost no traces in the fossil record, making a direct link between the muons and extinctions is virtually impossible to prove. “These muons would not leave any traces,” says Melott.

Even if the showers of muons and iron-60 from the dying star cannot be directly linked to extinctions, their presence demonstrates a deep truth: the Earth and everything on it, is part of the Universe. Star can store answers to the mysteries of our destiny.

What do you think, shall we see a supernova explosion and the subsequent extinction of species? Tell us in our chat in Telegram.

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