A group of scientists from the University of Illinois has calculated that one of the five mass extinctions in Earth’s history, Devonian, could be caused by a supernova explosion. The research results are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
As the Late Devonian continued, more and more living things became extinct, leading to one of the greatest mass extinction events around 359 million years ago.
New research by astrophysicist Brian Fields of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign suggests that the Devonian mass extinction on Earth could be a distant and completely alien phenomenon – a dying star that exploded far into the galaxy.
There is speculation that mass extinctions, such as the late Devonian, are caused exclusively by terrestrial causes: for example, a devastating volcanic eruption, as a result of which the planet becomes lifeless.
New calculations show that the catastrophic destruction of stratospheric ozone could be caused by ionizing radiation from a supernova explosion located up to 65 light-years from Earth.
This may be the first time such an explanation has been put forward for the Late Devonian extinction, but scientists have long considered the potentially fatal consequences of near-Earth supernovae in a similar context.