A supernova ‘destroyed’ some of Earth’s ozone for a few minutes in ’22 – Times of India


On October 9, 2022, telescopes in space picked up a jet of high energy photons careening through the cosmos toward Earth, evidence of a supernova exploding 1.9 billion light-years away. Such events are called gamma-ray bursts and astronomers who have continued studying this one said it was the “brightest of all time.”
Now, scientists have discovered this burst caused a measurable change in the number of ionized particles found in Earth’s upper atmosphere, including ozone molecules, which readily absorb harmful solar radiation.
“The ozone was partially depleted – was destroyed temporarily,” said Pietro Ubertini, an astronomer at the National Institute of Astrophysics in Rome who was involved in discovering the atmospheric event. The effect was detectable for just a few minutes before the ozone repaired itself, so it was “nothing serious,” Dr Ubertini said. But had the supernova occurred closer to us, he said, “it would be a catastrophe.”
The discovery, reported Tuesday in a paper published in the journal Nature Communications, demonstrates how even explosions that occur far from our solar system can influence the atmosphere, which can be used as a giant detector for extreme cosmic phenomena.
Most atmospheric ozone is concentrated in a thin layer of the stratosphere, about 10-25 miles above Earth’s surface.
This is the first time scientists have proved cosmic explosions like this can affect the entire ionosphere, said Laura Hayes, a solar physicist at the European Space Agency who was not involved in the study. It is uncommon for faraway cosmic phenomena to cause such large atmospheric disturbances,Dr Hayes added. “Fortunately for us, this gamma ray burst was extremely distant, making its effects more of a scientific curiosity than a threat.”

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