http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/312645

Astrophysicists shed light on radiation bursts, effects on Earth

Posted Oct 11, 2011 by Andrew Moran
Astrophysicists at the Geological Society of America have published a new study that provides insight how our planet can be affected by gamma ray, X-rays, cosmic rays and "short-hard interstellar radiation events."
Black hole devours a neutron star. Scientists say they have seen tantalizing  first-time evidence of...
Black hole devours a neutron star. Scientists say they have seen tantalizing, first-time evidence of a black hole eating a neutron star-first stretching the neutron star into a crescent, swallowing it, and then gulping up crumbs of the broken star in the minutes and hours that followed. Credit: Dana Berry/NASA
NASA
The universe is, indeed, an extraordinary place. Although space is very beautiful, the human species is very lucky to still be alive due to the overwhelming possibilities of being killed off by an event out of this world.
One of the ways Earth could be seriously affected is by a burst of gamma rays, X-rays and cosmic ways, which occur when a star explodes or when black holes collide in any part of our Milky Way galaxy.
A new study by researchers at the Geological Society of America (GSA) sheds light on the adverse effects of high-energy radiation bursts that would bathe our planet and how short bursts are much more dangerous than longer ones, according to a press release.
Astrophysicists concluded in their research that even though longer bursts can erode the stratospheric ozone, shorter ones can have more of a long-term effect on our planet’s oceans and surface due to the amount of radiation.
“We find that a kind of gamma ray burst — a short gamma ray burst — is probably more significant than a longer gamma ray burst,” said Washburn University astrophysicist, Brian Thomas. “The duration is not as important as the amount of radiation. What I focused on was the longer term effects.”
Black hole devours a neutron star. Scientists say they have seen tantalizing  first-time evidence of...
Black hole devours a neutron star. Scientists say they have seen tantalizing, first-time evidence of a black hole eating a neutron star-first stretching the neutron star into a crescent, swallowing it, and then gulping up crumbs of the broken star in the minutes and hours that followed
NASA
The first long-term effect would be the diminishing of the ozone layer, which would create serious harm to both humans and marine life.
Intermittent bursts can transpire anywhere in the galaxy and the probability is about once every 100 million years. This has led scientists to believe Earth has been impacted before, but the question is: did the bursts hurt the Earth long-term?
Although astronomical evidence is most likely not there, astrophysicists are hopeful that there could be evidence on the planet’s surface, such as isotope iron-60 (an alternative for radiation events). If discovered, scientists will then investigate extinction events.
“I work with some paleontologists and we try to look for correlations with extinctions, but they are skeptical,” added Thomas. “So if you go and give a talk to paleontologists, they are not quite into it. But to astrophysicists, it seems pretty plausible.”
Results of this study were presented Sunday at the annual meeting of the GSA in Minneapolis.