DETLEV VAN RAVENSWAAY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DETLEV VAN RAVENSWAAY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Gamma ray burst hits Earth, artwork. Conceptual image of the energetic radiation (purple shell) from a gamma ray burst (GRB) event (upper left) hitting the Earth (lower right). The radiation, X-rays and gamma rays, would not be visible. A GRB is a massive short-lived energy burst, hundreds of times brighter than an ordinary supernova. One theory says that GRBs occur when a black hole forms as a massive star collapses under its own weight. If the GRB event occured within 6000 light years of Earth, the radiation would kill most of the life on Earth. It is thought that GRB events and supernovae have caused mass extinctions in the past, and could do so again in the future.
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