(Submitted March 23, 2004)
If the star eta Carina exploded as a Gamma-Ray Burst during a Hypernova event,
would it be dangerous for human beings?
It depends where the human beings are of course!
It's believed by some that gamma ray bursts, produced by the
implosion of a massive star to a black hole, produce most of their
emission in jets which are directed along the rotational axis of the
imploding star. Most people who study Eta Car think that the
rotational axis is along the symmetry axis of the homunculus nebula
which surrounds eta Car, and this axis is tilted by about 45 degrees
to our line of sight, which means that most of the dangerous emission
would not be directed at us. So there's probably little danger to
humanity. However there might be enough emission to disable
communication and other satellites.