Star Could Fire Death Ray at Earth
Perfect spiral 8K light years away produces gamma rays
By Sam Gale Rosen,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 10, 2008 3:49 PM CDT
This Hubble Space Telescope image shows nebula M1-67 around Wolf Rayet star WR 124.   (Public Domain)
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(Newser) – Don't freak out, but an unstable star a mere 8,000 light years away could go supernova at any time, sending a massive gamma ray burst hurtling toward Earth, possibly destroying the ozone layer and blasting half of the planet with deadly radiation. WR 104 is what's known as a Wolf-Rayet star, and "Wolf-Rayet stars are regarded by astronomers as ticking bombs," a researcher tells Space.com.

The good news: The gamma rays would shoot out in a relatively narrow beam along the star system's axis. The bad news: We appear to be more or less directly on that axis. "I used to appreciate this spiral just for its beautiful form, but now I can't help a twinge of feeling that it is uncannily like looking down a rifle barrel," says an astronomer.