New estimates show that planets within a 50 light-year radius of Supernovae are well within the ‘killzone’, this radius has been updated from the previous estimate of 25 light-years.
If a supernova goes off 50 light-years from our planet, we’re in big trouble.
We’ve already found clues here on Earth that indicate the effects of far off supernovae. Studying the effects of a super supernova events about 2.7 million years ago – we can find evidence of it’s presence up until today: According to Melotte’s paper, we can find a connection between a global cooling that took place in the Pleistocene epoch that was linked to the event in question.
It’s possible, that increased radiation levels from a nearby supernova could change cloud formations in turn leading to a global cooling that could explain events on Earth at the beginning of the Pleistocene. (increased glaciation, increase of species extinction, and the cooling of the Africa)
“The timing estimates are still not exact, but the thing that changed to cause us to write this paper is the distance. We did this computation because other people did work that made a revised distance estimate, which cut the distance in half. But now, our distance estimate is more like 150 light years.”
The paper concludes admitting that it’s truly difficult to understand what happened on Earth at this time, but indicates that high levels of radiation from a supernova could increase cancer rates, which could in turn contribute to extinction events over time.
50 light-years is a good indicator, and we certainly do not want a supernova going off in our cosmic backyard. There’s still more research to be done – based on limited data from previous studies, and limited data from the newest study – but there’s plenty of indication that we want to stay as far away from supernova events as possible.