Is the Earth at risk from supernovae? LJMU astronomers diagnose how soon before nearby stars will explode
Stars more than eight times bigger than the Sun will end their lives in a fiery explosion, spraying out debris at over 10,000 km per second, and emitting huge amounts of dangerous radiation. With several stars this massive relatively close to the Earth, it is natural to ask how much are we at risk from one of them blowing up and affecting us?
Now, astronomers at Liverpool John Moores University have answered this question in a recent paper by studying a large number of Red Supergiants - massive stars which are close to exploding. Lead author and LJMU PhD student, and former LJMU Astrophysics undergraduate, Emma Beasor commented, "As Red Supergiants get closer to supernova they eject huge amounts of material from their surface, gradually smothering themselves in dust. The thickness of this dust 'cocoon' therefore tells us how close the star is to exploding."
The most famous Red Supergiant is the nearby star Betelgeuse, in the constellation of Orion. So how long have we got before this star goes supernova? According to Beasor, "Fortunately Betelgeuse doesn't show any of the symptoms of being close to supernova, so we are probably safe for 100,000 years or so."