Growing up, we have all heard at least once that hundreds of millions of years ago, the Earth bloomed with simple unicellular life, evolving gradually and slowly into ferocious dinosaurs and one day a big explosion happened and life on Earth vanished.
Much research has been carried out throughout history to get a hint of what life was like on Earth before humans. In fact, the research still goes on and every now and then, archeologists and scientists dig up something fascinating that satisfies our curiosity to understand about the past.
Research has helped scientists gain a perspective on exactly what might have happened all those millions of years ago. According to the University of Illinois, a supernova 65 light years away might have something to do with the mass extinction that happened nearly 339 million years ago; one of the worst in the planet’s lifetime. Nobody knows for sure how or what events led to the mass extinction, but of all the limited knowledge of the event that the researchers have, they gathered information by studying ancient plants. The spore of most of the plants in the study had been sunburnt by UV radiation caused by lower ozone in the Earth’s atmosphere. And since, the ozone levels in the Earth’s atmosphere are severely damaged by natural events it is extremely likely that the supernova may have been behind the extinction that happened all those years ago.
Another fact that strengthens the claim is that any supernova explosion within 25 light years of distance, otherwise referred to as the kill zone, can prove fatal to the Earth. So it is quite possible that a cosmic explosion some 65 light years away may have caused some trouble on Earth. Apart from the extinction on such a massive scale, it was the Earth’s ecosystem that took the most damage to the point that the effects lasted for well over one hundred thousand years.
Scientists researching the event also looked at other possible explanations such as a meteorite shower or other cosmic events. However, none of these explanations can be correct when comparing the amount of damage that had been dealt to the Earth’s ozone layer and the time it took to recover – more than a century. In the end, scientists came to a possible conclusion that it is highly likely that a supernova explosion may have caused a massive shower of cosmic radiations onto the Earth’s atmosphere, hence severely damaging the Ozone layer.
Whether the event happened the way the scientists concluded or not depends greatly on the presence of plutonium isotopes from the Devonian period. If they can be found, the presence of these isotopes on Earth will confirm the event of a supernova explosion since these can only come to Earth via an explosion.