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Meet Apep, the rare star system that could explode and kill us all

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Gamma ray bursts release more energy in 10 seconds than the Sun will emit over its entire 10-billion-year lifetime.

“First discovered in the late 1960s by military satellites, little progress was made in understanding these energetic events until 25 years later when the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory with the Burst and Transient Source Experiment (BATSE) was launched,” Swinburne University recalls.

Two types of these events are seen — short and long burst, with those events lasting less than two seconds classified as short term bursts. Astrophysicists believe that short-term bursts are the result of collisions of neutron stars, while long-term bursts are the result of a supernova driven by the core collapse of a massive star into a black hole. The video below shows a look at the potential dangers to Earth of a gamma ray burst.

Apep (otherwise known as 2XMM J160050.7–514245) is named in honor of the Egyptian god of chaos, and rightfully so. A gamma ray burst like the one expected from the explosion of Apep could result in a mass extinction on Earth, even from far across the galaxy — provided the discharge from the eruption were aimed in our direction.

Such an event could result in the rapid depletion of ozone from our atmosphere, and increased acid rain across the planet. Studies suggest the Ordovician–Silurian extinction, the second-largest loss of life in the history of Earth, may have been the result of such a gamma ray burst.

“Water would protect marine organisms from the heat of a GRB, but not from its other effects… Its gamma-rays would convert some nitrogen and oxygen in the atmosphere into nitrogen dioxide, the brownish gas present in urban smog. Nitrogen dioxide would filter out sunlight, turning the skies dark. The cooling effect could trigger an ice age,” Nature reported in 2003.

Fortunately for us, when this system erupts, the energy will be released well away from Earth.

Due to the narrow cone of energy released by gamma ray bursts, we only see a small fraction of these events. Consequently, many more cosmic ray bursts must be happening than just the small fraction seen by astronomers.

While we see, roughly, one gamma ray burst per day taking place in a distant galaxy, the actual number is likely closer to 500 each day. Let’s hope none of those take place in our galaxy with their sights pointed toward our own world.


This article was originally published on The Cosmic Companion by James Maynard, founder and publisher of The Cosmic Companion. He is a New England native turned desert rat in Tucson, where he lives with his lovely wife, Nicole, and Max the Cat. You can read this original piece here.

Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion is also available as a weekly podcast, carried on all major podcast providers. Tune in every Tuesday for updates on the latest astronomy news, and interviews with astronomers and other researchers working to uncover the nature of the Universe.

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Conquer Your Pup’s Dander and Fur With $700 Off a Cobalt or Charcoal Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum

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Best Home DealsBest Home DealsThe best home, kitchen, smart home, and automotive deals from around the web, updated daily.

Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum & Mop (Cobalt) | $200 | Best Buy

Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum & Mop (Charcoal) | $200 | Best Buy

Allergies can be bad enough as the seasons change. Don’t let pet hair and dander add to that by vacuuming it up early and often. That chore is easier said than done— unless you have a robot vacuum to do the work for you. This lovely bright cobalt Bobsweep PetHair Plus robot vacuum and mop, only $200 today at Best Buy seems like an ideal option. That’s a whopping $700 off, by the way.

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You can get the same deal for the charcoal version of the robot vac, too. This model is not only specially made for picking up pet hair, it self docks and charges when it’s finished with the work.

It also comes with a mop attachment, so it can take care of those kitchen floors for you as well. Grab it while it’s still available for this fantastic price!

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Apple will replace AirPods Pro for free with faulty noise cancellation, static or crackling

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Today, exactly one year after Apple first launched the AirPods Pro — and thus the same day the very first AirPods Pro owners will see their one-year warranties expire — Apple has launched a repair program that offers free repairs or replacements for another whole year if your AirPods Pro experience issues with noise cancellation or static.

Specifically, Apple will fix:

Crackling or static sounds that increase in loud environments, with exercise or while talking on the phone

Active Noise Cancellation not working as expected, such as a loss of bass sound, or an increase in background sounds, such as street or airplane noise

Apple says only a “small percentage of AirPods Pro” are affected by the issues, but it apparently wasn’t just an early batch — Apple says affected units were manufactured “before October 2020,” meaning every AirPods Pro ever made might be eligible. That’s quite a recall if so. Apple says it will repair faulty AirPods Pro for two years after you first buy them.

We’ve heard complaints about degraded noise cancellation before, and at least one Verge editor has replaced their AirPods Pro under warranty. It’s nice to hear that Apple isn’t just cutting buyers off as soon as that warranty expires.

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This 55″ 4K TCL Smart TV Hangs on Your Wall for $200

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Best Tech DealsBest Tech DealsThe best tech deals from around the web, updated daily.

TCL 55″ S434 4K Smart TV | $200 | Best Buy

Best Buy has an insane deal going for a brand new 55″ 4K TCL smart TV. It’s the S434, which is pretty baseline for TCL’s lineup, but at just $200, there’s little to complain about. TCL’s panels are plenty sharp and accurate, and with this set, you’ll get HDR10 compliance for enhanced color and brightness in supported games and video content. This model has Android TV onboard for all your app needs, and with an included voice remote, all your favorite content is just a shout away with the help of Google Assistant.

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