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The Question

(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?

The Answer

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.

Mike Corcoran

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