Mass extinctions and supernova explosions

Preprint English OPEN
Korschinek, Gunther (2016)
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-21846-5_22
  • Subject: Astrophysics - Earth and Planetary Astrophysics
    arxiv: Physics::Geophysics | Astrophysics::Galaxy Astrophysics | Astrophysics::High Energy Astrophysical Phenomena | Astrophysics::Earth and Planetary Astrophysics | Physics::Space Physics

A nearby supernova (SN) explosion could have negatively influenced life on Earth, maybe even been responsible for mass extinctions. Mass extinction poses a significant extinction of numerous species on Earth, as recorded in the paleontologic, paleoclimatic, and geological record of our planet. Depending on the distance between the Sun and the SN, different types of threats have to be considered, such as ozone depletion on Earth, causing increased exposure to the Sun's ultraviolet radiation, or the direct exposure of lethal x-rays. Another indirect effect is cloud formation, induced by cosmic rays in the atmosphere which result in a drop in the Earth's temperature, causing major glaciations of the Earth. The discovery of highly intensive gamma ray bursts (GRBs), which could be connected to SNe, initiated further discussions on possible life-threatening events in Earth's history. The probability that GRBs hit the Earth is very low. Nevertheless, a past interaction of Earth with GRBs and/or SNe cannot be excluded and might even have been responsible for past extinction events.
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