Supernova is the biggest, brightest, and most powerful explosion ever witnessed by mankind in the whole universe. It occurs when two white dwarfs (end life stage of small stars like our Sun) come too close to one another, resulting in a collision, or one pulls too much mass of another. This triggers the explosion, leading to the formation of Type I Supernova.
Another possibility of supernova formation is when a giant star is at the phase of its life cycle where it runs out of fuel and instantly collapses due to the gravity force.
This gravity force was previously balanced by the heat and pressure produced by the star’s burning, since there is no fuel left therefore the inward gravity force overcomes the outward heat and pressure, causing the star to suddenly collapse, creating a shockwave that causes the outer part of the star to explode.
As a result, the only dense matter is left along with hot expanding gases. The supernova created by this process is known as a Type II Supernova.
Is there going to be any Supernova formation observable by naked eyes in 2022?
Supernova formation is a rare event in the universe and for us to see a supernova from the earth, it must occur inside the range of our galaxy observable with naked eyes (1000-2000 light-years). Such events are so rare that they may occur only once in every 10,000 earth years.
Luckily, in 2017 a team of researchers from Calvin College, Michigan, USA had found out that a binary star system (KIC 9832227) located in the constellation of Cygnus is going to merge and explode in 2022.
According to them, this could result in the formation of a Luminous Red Nova (LRN) which will be observable by naked eyes from the earth. (However, some astronomers don’t approve of the data used for predicting this event and disprove their claims.)
Betelgeuse, the tenth brightest star in our night sky is expected to be next in line for undergoing Type II supernova formation, as predicted by the astronomers in 2019. It is located roughly 724 light years away from the earth and is 950 times larger than our sun.
This star is expected to explode, producing a large amount of energy and radiation known as gamma-ray bursts.
This phenomenon of supernova production will be visible with the naked eyes to the people on the earth. Unfortunately, later in 2020, the astronomers clarified that the reason for predicting the death of this star was due to the dimness of its light which led the astronomers to believe that its fuel is about to end. But it was not the case, a vapor cloud hindered the brightness of the star, tricking the astronomers into believing that this star is about to transform into a supernova. Therefore, we can confidently say that no supernova formation of this star is predicted in 2022.
What is the radius in which a supernova formation could affect the earth?
Astronomers believe that a radius of 50 light-years is the critical range for any supernova formation to affect the earth. On average, a supernova is formed within 240 million years around a 33 light-years radius of the earth, which is highly unlikely to occur at any time soon. Any supernova produced within the range of one thousand to two thousand light-years could be visible from the earth, but it will have neither a negative nor positive impact on the earth. The supernova forming far from the earth can only be observed by the Hubble or the new James Webb’s space telescope.
Effects of Supernova on earth
Although there are no chances of any supernova production near the 50 light-year radius of the earth but if it does, the following effects could be observed:
Effects on ozone
A near-earth supernova explosion will result in a sudden burst of energy and gamma rays which can rapidly deplete the ozone layer of earth which is necessary for blocking the harmful radiations from the Sun, entering our atmosphere.
Effects on land species and plants
After the complete loss of ozone, all the plant life on earth will gradually be eliminated, triggering the mass extinction of all species including humans. The sunlight will be highly radioactive and would cause skin cancer in humans upon exposure. The probability of such events is very lower.
Effects on oceans
Coral reefs will get destroyed by the cosmic rays coming from the outer spaces, affecting all the organic sea life’s habitats.
Effects on marine species
A considerable amount of radiation reaching the seawater can directly impact the phytoplankton, which is a major food for the marine species. This will significantly impact the marine food chain.
Effects on DNA
The high-energy gamma rays produced by the supernova explosion have the potential to alter the DNA of the living organism here on earth. This could start a mass-scale mutation of the organisms living here on earth.
Effect on atmosphere
The X-rays are formed during the supernova explosion that can ionize the nitrogen and oxygen in our atmosphere. The ionized nitrogen and oxygen combine to form a smog-like nitrogen oxide gas, polluting our planet.
Effect on Climate
Evidence is found that a supernova can cause global warming if it occurs within the 300 pc of earth. In the last 11 million years of earth history, 20 such supernova explosions are estimated to have been occurred. Each explosion has contributed a temperature rise of about three to four degrees Celsius to the earth’s atmosphere.
Effect on the planet surface/landmass
An explosion very near to the solar system forming a supernova can annihilate the whole planet earth in this process. The 1044 joules of energy released could wipe the entire solar system in the blink of an eye. Of course, the practicality of such a scenario is very low, and it is almost certain that our Sun will not be reaching its final stage for the next billion years.
There are a lot of negative effects of supernova explosion on both organic and non-organic matter on earth but the probability of it occurring inside 500 light-year radius from the earth is very low. That’s why there is no need for us to panic, even if the supernova occurs, it will be way outside the earth’s field. As far as Betelgeuse and KIC 9832227 binary star systems are considered they are far from reaching a supernova state. Hence, there is no chance of seeing a supernova in 2022 neither by naked eyes nor by telescope. The nearest supernova is expected to occur in 2037 by the researchers.