New Link From Supernova to Life on Earth?

Posted on May 2, 2012 by


Through the Royal Astronomical Society in London the Danish scientist Henrik Svensmark released new scientific evidence in the last week that has not yet hit the mass media.  This new examination could revolutionize the way that we view our world’s climate and even the history of life on Earth.  Professor Svensmark examined the history of how supernovas close to our solar system occurred over the last 500 million years.  He compared this supernova history to our well known history of the number of different species on Earth over that same time period and found a remarkable correlation.

Supernova are the massive explosions of stars at least 9 times larger than our own (some are 100’s or 1000’s of times greater), in which there is either runaway fusion (similar to a sun sized hydrogen bomb) or it burns all its fuel all the way to iron and becomes unable to stop its core from collapsing and causing a massive explosion as elements heavier then iron are created.  These supernova reach almost 5 billion times as bright as the sun, and can be seen from earth even during the day time.  The brightest was about half the size of the moon and was so bright that objects on the ground could be seen at night during a new moon.  Supernovas are thought to create “cosmic rays”, which are extremely fast moving sub-atomic particles that constantly bombard our planet.  It creates these either directly in the explosion or indirectly through what remains.  As our solar system moved around the galaxy, it got closer and further away from the different spiral arms of our galaxy (which is where most of the stars, and supernovas are), this caused variations in the rate of cosmic rays that reached our planet.

Professor Svensmark’s theory that lead to discovering this remarkable correlation is that “cosmic rays” affect the climate of the earth (which he calls “cosmoclimatology”).  Specifically it causes very small particles to get created, and these particles eventually create large enough molecular clusters as the free electrons are used to catalyze the natural creation of sulfuric acid molecules using UV light (don’t worry if you don’t understand that part).  The important thing is these molecules are big enough to act as seeds in clouds increasing the amount of clouds we have, and thereby reducing the amount of light that gets to the ground.  The creation of very small particles was confirmed by CERN particle accelerator in the CLOUD experiment.  And the formation of molecules large enough to help create clouds was confirmed in his SKY2 experiment earlier this year.

There are some other possible ways in which cosmic rays can affect life on earth.  One is that cosmic rays, like all ionizing radiation, can cause mutations when it or more likely a gamma ray it causes hits DNA and messes it up.  But this only explains an increase in the number of species when lots of cosmic rays happen, not any decrease caused by cosmic rays.  Because the number of species matches the amount of super nova’s so closely this mutation cannot be the only cause.  Its possible there is some other explanation for this strong correlation, however there is no other theory currently known to me (other than that cosmic rays affect the climate) that could even attempt to explain it.  Current IPCC papers do not include any effects on the climate from cosmic rays.

One of the most interesting things I found was out closely the rate of nearby supernova’s matched the well-known geological time periods that everyone learns in grade school.  Examples are the Jurassic, Triassic, Cretaceous, and Permian periods shown in the graph to the right. At the top you will also see the red for times of warming, blue for times of cooling, and white for glacial periods.   Was the Permian–Triassic extinction event which caused 96% of all marine species to die caused by the sudden drop in cosmic rays from leaving one of the most active spiral arms in our galaxy the Norma spiral arm?  Is it possible that it was warm enough for the dinosaurs because our solar system had just left the Norma spiral arm?

If cosmic rays do affect the climate, then what does that say about the potential near term changes in climate?  Well according to the National Solar Observatory, the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, and the Riken research foundation, all say that the sun is going in to a dormant phase, in which solar magnetic activity is likely to be very low with little or no sunspots.  The National Astronomical Observatory of Japan hypothesizes that the sun is about to have 4 poles rather than the normal 2 as the normal process of the magnetic polls which are meant to occur every 11 years don’t seem to be occurring like normal.  The sun, which when active protects us from the cooling effects of cosmic rays, as it is going into a dormant cycle starting in solar cycle 25 (starting in 2025) it is likely that the temperature will decrease over the next 30 years.  (to see more about some of this work on the future of the sun see this video: Scientists Forecast Coming Grand Minimum Solar Cycle)


Posted in: International