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Lethal gamma-ray may soon hit earth

india Updated: May 29, 2013 17:16 IST
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A lethal gamma-ray burst from a star about 8000 light years away could hit earth and possibly wipe out a quarter of our atmospheric ozone, astronomers have revealed.

They said that the Wolf-Rayet star WR 104 could go supernova any day and generate gamma rays that could reach earth, News.com.au reported.

Astronomer Grant Hill told to Forbes that we could see it go supernova anywhere from tomorrow to 500,000 years from now, according to the publication.

He added that the gamma-ray burst and optical photons from the supernova would arrive simultaneously.

There has been much debate over whether a gamma-ray burst from WR 104, which was discovered by University of Sydney astronomer Peter Tuthill in 1998, would reach earth, but Dr Hill said it depended on the star's rotation.

"If you look at WR 104 and the image of its pinwheel, it really is a visceral and powerful argument that the thing is face on with an inclination of zero," Dr Hill explained.

This would mean earth was directly in the line of fire from the star.

University of Kansas physicist Adrian Melott told Forbes such a gamma-ray burst would cause a 50 per cent increase in UVB radiation.