Powerful 1-in-10,000-year space explosion shook Earth’s atmosphere last year

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A powerful blast of radiation that occurs one in 10,000 years from space shook Earth’s upper atmosphere last year, a new study shows.

The record-breaking bright and long-lasting gamma-ray burst (GRB) is likely from a massive star that collapsed into a black hole. The outburst is called GRB 221009A and is better known as the brightest of all time (boat).

The eruption that originated some 2.4 billion light-years away from Earth and hit the planet on October 9 last year may have led to changes in the upper ionosphere, according to a new study published in the journal Nature communication on Tuesday.

Large variations in the electric field of Earth’s upper ionosphere, about 500 km above the Earth’s surface, may have been caused by the powerful GRB, researchers including those from the University of L’Aquila in Italy said.

Data from satellites and ground stations observing the ionosphere found a large variation of the electric field in Earth’s upper ionosphere.

“A huge variation of the ionospheric electric field, caused by the strong change in ionospheric conductivity, was detected in the upper ionosphere (507 km),” scientists wrote in the study.

Researchers found that both changes were correlated with GRB 221009A.

While the GRB struck for about seven minutes, scientists said its effects were noticeable for more than 10 hours after it was first detected.

Previous studies suggested that the stability of the ionosphere plays a key role in the endurance and evolution of life on Earth.

For example, an abrupt increase in chemical changes in these parts of the Earth could deplete the planet’s protective ozone layer on a global scale, exposing more people and life forms to cancer-causing UV radiation.

A recent analysis of about 7,000 GRBs suggests that Boot was 70 times brighter than any other observed to date. Such a rare powerful burst of radiation could occur once every 10,000 years.

Although GRB effects on Earth’s lower ionosphere are known to scientists, they say they have not previously been observed in the upper ionosphere.

In this context, the new study raises concerns that cosmic explosions could trigger high-energy radiation bursts that disrupt this layer and affect life on Earth.

GRBs can cause disruptions on Earth because their released energetic particles can interact abnormally with the ionosphere, researchers said.

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