Superluminous Supernovae: No Threat from n Carinae

Status Report From: Mary Ann Liebert Inc.
Posted: Monday, February 25, 2008

Astrobiology. February 1, 2008, 8(1): 9-16.

Recently, Supernova 2006gy was noted as the most luminous ever recorded, with a total radiated energy of 1044 Joules. It was proposed that the progenitor may have been a massive evolved star similar to n Carinae, which resides in our own Galaxy at a distance of about 2.3 kpc. n Carinae appears ready to detonate. Although it is too distant to pose a serious threat as a normal supernova, and given that its rotation axis is unlikely to produce a gamma-ray burst oriented toward Earth, _ Carinae is about 30,000 times nearer than 2006gy, and we re-evaluate it as a potential superluminous supernova. We have found that, given the large ratio of emission in the optical to the X-ray, atmospheric effects are negligible. Ionization of the atmosphere and concomitant ozone depletion are unlikely to be important. Any cosmic ray effects should be spread out over 104 y and similarly unlikely to produce any serious perturbation to the biosphere. We also discuss a new possible effect of supernovae--endocrine disruption induced by blue light near the peak of the optical spectrum. This is a possibility for nearby supernovae at distances too large to be considered "dangerous" for other reasons. However, due to reddening and extinction by the interstellar medium, _ Carinae is unlikely to trigger such effects to any significant degree. Astrobiology 8, 9-16.

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