Star will explode in gamma ray burst, dooming all life


We're doomed! The Mayans were right about that whole "world ending on Dec. 21, 2012" thing!

Okay, probably not. Inevitably, though, this star will explode into a supernova. That's just fine, given that it's too far away for such an event to pose a threat. If it collapses in a particular type of supernova called a gamma ray burst, though ...

The Bad Astronomy blog does a nice job explaining the inevitable fate of WR 104, and what will happen if it emits gamma rays in this violent type of supernova. Short answer: a number of things have to go wrong in order for us to be in any danger, and we really ought not worry. But if gamma rays head toward Earth from this star's demise, as is possible, that's bad news.

He doesn't answer the one pivotal question, though. Wouldn't this just turn Earth into an entire planet of Incredible Hulks? It would do wonders for politeness if you knew your gamma-absorbing neighbor could turn into an unstoppable force at any slight.

[Oh, and that whole "Mayans believed the world would end in 2012" story? It's a myth, too.]