Rare Gamma-Ray Burst from Distant Galaxy Impacts Earth’s Upper Atmosphere

Extraterrestrial Gamma-Ray Burst Caused Significant Disturbance in Earth’s Atmosphere

By Will Dunham

Researchers revealed that the impact of a gamma-ray burst originating two billion light years away had a notable effect on Earth’s ionosphere; Earth’s electrically charged gas-containing upper atmosphere. This burst of energy, detected in October 2022, was the most potent ever observed and was caused by a supernova explosion in a galaxy far beyond our Milky Way.

While this burst did not pose any danger to life on Earth, it sparked a strong variation in the ionosphere’s electric field, remaining detectable for several hours and even setting off lightning detectors in India. This notable effect challenged the notion that such bursts are unlikely to impact Earth, despite their relative distance.

Scientists and researchers studying the impact of this gamma-ray burst relied on data collected by various satellites, including the European Space Agency’s Integral space observatory and the China Seismo-Electromagnetic Satellite (CSES). The use of the EFD (electric field detector) instrument, in particular, provided unprecedented insights into the burst’s influence on the ionosphere.

The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, emphasized the highly sensitive nature of the ionosphere and its susceptibility to changing magnetic and electrical conditions in space. Despite the lack of deleterious effects from this particular event, researchers caution that a potentially dangerous burst originating within the Milky Way could pose a threat to life on Earth by exposing it to harmful ultraviolet radiation.

Although the probability of such an event is deemed negligible, researchers continue to explore the potential impacts of extraterrestrial phenomena on Earth’s atmosphere and the implications for life on our planet.

(Reporting by Will Dunham, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)


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