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Supernova Silliness

There’s been a lot of crazy predictions about 2012 and all the disasters that are going to befall our poor little planet. There’s one prediction that somehow escaped my notice until recently…that the earth will be destroyed by a supernova!

The people who promulgate this silliness try to make reasonable arguments how this conspiracy could possilby stay a secret.
The usual reason is the same reason why evidence of UFOS is kept a secret by the governments of the world. There would obviously be a worldwide panic, cats and dogs living together…….total chaos.

Did you know that a few years ago a movie was released called: 2012: Supernova
The online description of the movie I read was:
“When a star gone supernova threatens to destroy the Earth, an astrophysicist puts together a dangerous and desperate plan to shield the Earth from the destructive burst of radiation heading toward it”

Now I haven’t seen the movie but If it had already gone supernova and we know about it, isn’t it too late??
If we knew it had blown, then the deadly radiation would already have to be at our doorstep. The radiation is after-all how we would know. By then it’s too late. It’s true that harmless neurtinos arrive first after a supernova but you only have hours lead-time before the nasty stuff arrves.

Any who…

The facts about this possibility are, as usual, very interesting so let’s dive in shall we.

First of all, Supernovae in a galaxy are very rare. Only one or two per century happen. Another way to look at it is that a star blows within a 10 parsec parcel of space every quarter billion years.

Parsecs by the way are a cool measure of enormous distances. It stands for Parallex Second and is equal to 3.26 lightyears. Of course even that distance is relatively small so astronomers often refer to mega-parsecs or giga-parsecs for obvious reasons.

Sure, if it were close to a supernova we’d be in trouble. 20 billion billion billion megatons of TNT is nothing to sneeze at even trillions of miles away especialy considering the radiation produced.

X-rays and gamma radiation are the main threats from a close-by supernova, especially the gamma rays. They would deplete our ozone layer by inducing a chemical change that would cause it to evaporate. This would leave us unprotected from the nastiest type of UV rays. That’s why the oceans were the first domain of life. The land was bathed in harmful UV for a long time until the ozone layer got big enough to block enough of it. Meanwhile the oceans were safe because it acts as a filter.

Even a tiny increase in UV hitting the surface, like 10 percent, would kill some life outright including phytoplankton. When they die we’re essentially screwed and so are most other animals. They make lots of oxygen and they’re the bottom of the food chain. If they all died, Talk about a nasty cascade deaths.

But for a supernova to be close enough to do damage like that it have to be about 50 light years away, right in our backyard essentially.

The bottom line then is that there are no giant stars that close to earth that are ready to explode. There’s plenty other reasonable things to worry about happening in 2012. For example, I think I saw my cat eyeing my dog recently.

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