Status Report

Ozone Depletion from Nearby Supernovae

By SpaceRef Editor
January 8, 2003
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Astrophysics, abstract

From: John K. Cannizzo <[email protected]>
Date: Fri, 15 Nov 2002 16:05:31 GMT (526kb)

Ozone Depletion from Nearby Supernovae

Neil Gehrels,
Claude M. Laird,
Charles H. Jackman,
John K. Cannizzo,
Barbara J. Mattson,
Wan Chen

Comments: 24 pages, 4 Postscript figures, to appear in The Astrophysical
Journal, 2003 March 10, vol. 585

Estimates made in the 1970’s 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 modeling of atmospheric chemistry have
been developed to calculate ozone depletion, and advances have been made in
theoretical modeling of supernovae and of the resultant gamma-ray spectra. In
addition, one now has better knowledge of the occurrence rate of supernovae in
the galaxy, and of the spatial distribution of progenitors to core-collapse
supernovae. We report here the results of two-dimensional atmospheric model
calculations that take as input the spectral energy distribution of a
supernova, adopting various distances from Earth and various latitude impact
angles. In separate simulations we calculate the ozone depletion due to both
gamma-rays and cosmic rays. We find that for the combined ozone depletion
roughly to double the “biologically active” UV flux received at the surface
of the Earth, the supernova must occur at <8 pc. Based on the latest data, the
time-averaged galactic rate of core-collapse supernovae occurring within 8 pc
is ~1.5/Gyr. In comparing our calculated ozone depletions with those of
previous studies, we find them to be significantly less severe than found by
Ruderman (1974), and consistent with Whitten et al. (1976). In summary, given
the amplitude of the effect, the rate of nearby supernovae, and the ~Gyr time
scale for multicellular organisms on Earth, this particular pathway for mass
extinctions may be less important than previously thought.

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