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Space Science

Fifth Anniversary of a Cosmic Onslaught 162

Posted by Soulskill
from the blast-from-the-past dept.
The Bad Astronomer writes "Five years ago today (December 27, 2004), a vast wave of high-energy gamma and X-rays washed over the Earth, blinding satellites and partially ionizing the Earth's atmosphere. The culprit was a superflare from the magnetar SGR 1806-20, located 50,000 light years away. The energy released was mind-numbing: in one-fifth of a second, this supercharged magnetic neutron star blasted out as much energy as the Sun does in 250,000 years!"
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Fifth Anniversary of a Cosmic Onslaught

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  • Re:Frist Post! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Kagura (843695) on Sunday December 27, 2009 @02:45PM (#30564486)

    The energy released was mind-numbing: in one-fifth of a second, this supercharged magnetic neutron star blasted out as much energy as the Sun does in 250,000 years!"

    There's no way for me to get my head around these numbers to "truly" feel it. What methods can you use to visualize such extreme numbers?

  • Re:Frist Post! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FooAtWFU (699187) on Sunday December 27, 2009 @02:52PM (#30564542) Homepage
    There is a leak in your roof, and it is dripping water into a bucket: drip drip, drip drip. That's the sun. Then someone dumps the bucket of water over your head all at once, only the bucket is the size of an Olympic swimming pool. That's your neutron star.
  • Re:Zero warning (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Brett Buck (811747) on Sunday December 27, 2009 @03:01PM (#30564586)

    Neutrino oscillation http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neutrino_oscillation [wikipedia.org] proves that they DON'T travel at the speed of light.

  • 50,000? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Tablizer (95088) on Sunday December 27, 2009 @03:15PM (#30564656) Homepage Journal

    50,000 light years away and did all that? Imagine if it was say only 500 ly. We are kind of lucky that we don't have any flaky stars nearby....or do we?.....(cue scary music).

    Or sometimes far off stars merely have to "point" our way. Magnetism and other forces can focus radiation like a lens, and it may all point to a narrow spot in the sky. If your planet happens to be in the path of the beam, woes be. God doesn't play dice with the universe, he plays Russian Roulette. Time to buy some galactic insurance.
         

  • Re:Frist Post! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by FooAtWFU (699187) on Sunday December 27, 2009 @03:58PM (#30564926) Homepage
    Assuming the drop of water is 0.1 cm^3, your "bucket" would need to be the size of *two thousand* Olympic swimming pools to get approximately the same ratio.

    What are you talking about? You assume the size of a drop of water but neglected to even mention the rate at which it accumulates. Wikipedia places the Olympic-size swimming pool at 2,500,000 L. To fill that in 25 years (25 * 365 * 86400 = 788,400,000 seconds) is about 3.17 mL/sec. That doesn't seem too far off from the roof-leak I had about 2 weeks ago (through some of the flashing around the bathroom's vent) considering the gross approximations that we're working with here. If your roof-leak is 2000 times worse than sure, two thousand Olympic swimming pools. I hope you get it fixed sometimes in the next 25 years, though; it would be a pity to finally pay off that mortgage and then have the house collapse the next moment.

  • Blasted Whom? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Sunday December 27, 2009 @05:51PM (#30565840) Homepage Journal

    The blast lasted 200ms. During that time, half the Earth was facing away, shielded by not just atmosphere, but the rock of the solid Earth. Which direction relative to the Earth (latitude, longitude) did the blast come in from, and hit directly (except for atmosphere, and a bit of satellite shadow)?

    On a related subject, which direction does our Solar System "point" at? When it's the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, what angle on our solar orbit are we making with a line directly to the galactic core? What angle that day with the a tangent to our galactic orbit? Where are we looking at, anyway?

  • Eta Carinae (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Sunday December 27, 2009 @06:11PM (#30566022) Journal

    50,000 light years away and did all that? Imagine if it was say only 500 ly. We are kind of lucky that we don't have any flaky stars nearby....or do we?.....(cue scary music).

    Eta Carinae is expected to go supernova real soon (astronomical time scale - could be tomorrow, could be 10^6 years from now). It's less than 8000 ly away which is not very close, but much closer than 50000ly. And when it goes pop, Eta Carinae will be a pretty big one. Its rotation axis does not point towards us, so effects would be mostly limited to satellites and anything in the upper atmosphere.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eta_Carinae [wikipedia.org]

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