Did a gamma-ray burst initiate the late Ordovician mass extinction?

  title={Did a gamma-ray burst initiate the late Ordovician mass extinction?},
  author={Adrian L. Melott and By Offer Lieberman and Claude Laird and L. D. Martin and Mikhail V. Medvedev and B. Thomas and John K. Cannizzo and N. C. Gehrels and C. H. Jackman},
  journal={International Journal of Astrobiology},
  pages={55 - 61}
Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) produce a flux of radiation detectable across the observable Universe. A GRB within our own galaxy could do considerable damage to the Earth's biosphere; rate estimates suggest that a dangerously near GRB should occur on average two or more times per billion years. At least five times in the history of life, the Earth has experienced mass extinctions that eliminated a large percentage of the biota. Many possible causes have been documented, and GRBs may also have… 

Late Ordovician geographic patterns of extinction compared with simulations of astrophysical ionizing radiation damage

This work focuses on gamma-ray bursts (Thorsett 1995; Scalo and Wheeler 2002), a proposed causal agent for the end-Ordovician extinction, a threat approximately competitive with, for example, that of nearby supernovae.

Biological radiation dose from secondary particles in a Milky Way gamma-ray burst

Modelled the air showers produced by gamma-ray primaries up to 100 GeV, it is found that the number of muons produced by the electromagnetic component of hypothetical galactic GRBs significantly increases the total muon flux, and the biological radiation dose from secondary muons is negligible.

Possible role of gamma ray bursts on life extinction in the universe.

It is found that the probability of a lethal GRB is much larger in the inner Milky Way (95% within a radius of 4 kpc from the galactic center), making it inhospitable to life, and the safest environments for life are the lowest density regions in the outskirts of large galaxies, and life can exist in only ≈10% of galaxies.

Gamma-ray bursts as a threat to life on Earth

  • B. Thomas
  • Physics, Environmental Science
    International Journal of Astrobiology
  • 2009
Abstract Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) are likely to have made a number of significant impacts on the Earth during the last billion years. The gamma radiation from a burst within a few kiloparsecs would


Nearby gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) have been proposed as a possible cause of mass extinctions on Earth. Due to the higher event rate of GRBs at higher redshifts, it has been speculated that life as we

Astrophysical ionizing radiation and Earth: a brief review and census of intermittent intense sources.

This review estimates the intensities and rates of occurrence of many kinds of strong radiation bursts by astrophysical entities, ranging from gamma-ray bursts at cosmological distances to the Sun itself, and notes for the first time that so-called "short-hard" gamma-rays bursts are a substantial threat, comparable in magnitude to supernovae and greater than that of the higher-luminosity long bursts considered in most past work.


A planet having protective ozone within the collimated beam of a gamma-ray burst (GRB) may suffer ozone depletion, potentially causing a mass extinction event to existing life on a planet’s surface

Climatic and biogeochemical effects of a galactic gamma ray burst

The results support the hypothesis that the characteristics of the Late Ordovician mass extinction are consistent with GRB initiation, and show the first detailed computation of two other significant effects.

Did gamma ray burst induce Cambrian explosion?

One longstanding mystery in bio-evolution since Darwin’s time is the origin of the Cambrian explosion that happened around 540 million years ago (Mya), where an extremely rapid increase of species



Terrestrial implications of cosmological gamma-ray burst models

The observation by the BATSE instrument on the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory that gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) are distributed isotropically around the Earth but nonuniformly in distance has led to the


planet. Gamma ray bursts (GRBs) are short-duration flares of MeV γ-rays from outer space that last between a few milliseconds and ∼1000 s and occur at a rate of about 3 a day [1]. They were

Gamma-Ray bursts: accumulating afterglow implications, progenitor clues, and prospects.

Advances in understanding how the GRB and afterglow radiation arises in terms of a relativistic fireball shock model have opened new vistas and questions on the nature of the central engine, the identity of their progenitors, the effects of the environment, and their possible gravitational wave, cosmic ray, and neutrino luminosity.

Astrophysical and Astrobiological Implications of Gamma-Ray Burst Properties

Combining results from Schmidt for the local cosmic rate and mean peak luminosity of γ-ray bursts (GRBs) with results on the history of the cosmic star formation rate (SFR), we provide estimates for

High‐Energy Cosmic Rays from Galactic and Extragalactic Gamma‐Ray Bursts

A model for high energy (≳ 1014 eV) cosmic rays (HECRs) from galactic and extra‐galactic gamma‐ray bursts is summarized. Relativistic outflows in gamma‐ray bursts (GRBs) are assumed to inject

The Luminosity and Angular Distributions of Long-Duration Gamma-Ray Bursts

The realization that the total energy of gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) is correlated with their jet break angles motivates the search for a similar relation between the peak luminosity L and the jet break

Cosmological Aspects of Gamma-Ray Bursts: Luminosity Evolution and an Estimate of the Star Formation Rate at High Redshifts

Using 220 gamma-ray burst (GRB) redshifts and luminosities derived from the luminosity-variability relationship of Fenimore & Ramirez-Ruiz, we show that there exists a significant correlation between

Ozone Depletion from Nearby Supernovae

Estimates made in the 1970s indicated that a supernova occurring within tens of parsecs of Earth could have significant effects on the ozone layer. Since that time, improved tools for detailed

Intrinsic spectra and energetics of BeppoSAX Gamma-Ray Bursts with known redshifts

We present the main results of a study of spectral and energetics properties of twelve gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) with redshift estimates. All GRBs in our sample were detected by BeppoSAX in a broad