Breaking news: earth hit by record-breaking cosmic blast!
An impressive gamma-ray burst has impacted the ionosphere, the outermost layer of Earth’s atmosphere, on October 9, 2022. This phenomenon, possibly the most powerful ever detected, has been discovered by an Italian-led research team and published in the journal Nature Communications, with contributions from various Italian universities and institutes.
Gamma-ray bursts originate from extreme cosmic events, such as the merger of a neutron star with its companion or a black hole, or the collapse of a massive star. The significance of this phenomenon reaching the ionosphere lies in the importance of atmospheric stability on Earth, which is crucial for the evolution of life and protects us from high-energy phenomena like gamma-ray bursts, which can cause disruptions by interacting with and electrically charging the atmosphere.
It was believed that such disruptions only occurred in the lower ionosphere, but this event has demonstrated that they can also affect the upper layer, which extends beyond 350 kilometers in altitude. The detection of this disturbance in the high ionosphere was made possible thanks to the joint Italian-Chinese Cses mission (by the Italian Space Agency and China), which recorded the disturbance with an instrument that measures the electric field.
The gamma-ray burst, known as GRB 221009A, was detected by multiple satellites, including the Integral of the European Space Agency. It originated approximately 2 billion light-years away from Earth, suggesting that a gamma-ray burst produced within the Milky Way could have much more severe consequences.
In the worst-case scenario, a gamma-ray burst could even destroy the ozone layer, located between 15 and 35 kilometers in altitude, which filters harmful ultraviolet radiation. It is speculated that such events may have been the cause of some of the mass extinctions that have occurred on Earth in the past. For this reason, researchers are now seeking to understand the threshold at which an event of this magnitude could occur.
The recent discovery of a powerful gamma-ray burst impacting Earth’s ionosphere has generated alarm in the international scientific community. This phenomenon, detected for the first time at such magnitude, raises questions about the potential effects on the atmosphere and life on Earth. The burst, originating billions of light-years away, highlights the vulnerability of our planet to extreme cosmic events. The Italian-led research has opened a new window into understanding these phenomena and their potential risks, emphasizing the need for increased surveillance and study of outer space.