Monday, September 29, 2008

WR 104: 8000 light years way and waiting to pounce...

So, this is the deal. Shamelessly quoting Wikipedia:

WR 104 is a Wolf-Rayet star located 8000 light years from Earth at RA 18h02m04s.07 Dec -23d37'41.2" (ICRS). It is a binary star with a class OB companion. The stars have an orbital period of 220 days and the interaction between their stellar winds produce a spiral "pinwheel" outflow pattern over 200 AU long. The spiral is composed of dust that would normally be prevented from forming by WR 104's intense radiation were it not for the star's companion. The region where the stellar wind from the two massive stars interacts compresses the material enough for the dust to form, and the rotation of the system causes the spiral-shaped pattern.

WR 104's rotational axis is aligned within 16° of Earth. This could have potential implications to the effects of WR 104's eventual supernova, since these explosions often produce jets from their rotational poles. It is possible that WR 104 may even produce a gamma ray burst, though it is not possible to predict with certainty at this time.

Talk about being potentially shit out of luck! Like is there someone up there who really doesn't like us? What kind of a sick deity set us up at the end of what may well be an very precisely aimed X-ray rifle that could fry us to a crisp one of these days. And we're not talking a million years or some nicely removed disaster point like that. Could be in a week. Could be that it's already happened and the bullets haven't reached us yet. After all, they have to travel for something like 8000 years before they fry us. It might be that they just fry our atmosphere, so that we're going to have more than just an Ozone Hole, namely no Ozone to protect us against the Sun's UV rays at all.

Tomahto, tomaito.

People look at me strangely when I occasionally say something about the importance of getting our asses off this planet, and on a major scale. Space travel and, shock-and-laughter!, space migration is generally considered to be too expensive to even consider seriously. Only science fiction geeks would consider this seriously–surely! As far as 'reality' is concerned, let's do some scratching of the outer limits of the atmosphere and watch smiley Chinese astronauts wave to us from our TV screens. All the while very few even blink at the ridiculous amounts spent on inanities like the Olympic Games.

Denial, denial, denial. People really are stupid, according to Einstein infinitely so. They'd rather devise strategies to 'combat Global Warming' and expend huge intellectual and financial efforts on this completely futile enterprise. But tell them there's a massive galactic gun pointed at all of us, and they 'ho' and 'hum' and look at you funny.

I usually try very hard to keep a studiously indifferent expression. Sometime it's hard.

2 comments:

nanarama said...

But if they leave it up to the last minute to deal with it then they can deal with it in the manner of a Hollywood blockbuster, there'll be some unlikely bunch of charismatic salt-of-the-earth ppl somewhere that will be able to adapt their knowledge of their usual occupation in some way to deflect the cosmic ray and bounce it back in to space and the world will be saved and the peasants will rejoice. The end.

Till said...

Life imitating Art? In this case that would be nice.