TECH

A Deadly Gamma Ray Burst May Have Wiped Out Life On Earth

09/12/2014 11:20 GMT | Updated 10/12/2014 14:59 GMT

Researchers have suggested that one of the great extinction events in the Earth's history was caused by a massive gamma ray burst.

These huge galaxy-wide bursts of electromagnetic radiation are caused by the dying explosion of a hypernova or when two neutron stars collide.

Lasting between milliseconds to minutes their power is truly staggering as one gamma ray burst could wipe out life in huge swathes of a galaxy within seconds.

gamma ray burst

The researchers worked out the probability of the Earth being on the receiving end of one of these explosions and found that there was a 60 per cent chance in the past billion years and a massive 90 per cent in the past 5 billion.

Using this information the researchers believe that a gamma ray burst was the probable cause for the first great extinction event that took place in Earth's history over 440 million years ago.

While also explaining events on our own planet the researchers believe these statistics could help shed light on the Fermi paradox which ponders why we haven't met intelligent alien life yet despite the high chance of intelligent alien life existing.

One explanation could be that our closes alien civilisation was wiped out by a gamma ray burst, resulting in the silence we've heard since we started listening.