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Terrestrial implications of cosmological gamma-ray burst models
Thorsett, S. E.
AA(Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, US)
Astrophysical Journal, Part 2 - Letters (ISSN 0004-637X), vol. 444, no. 1, p. L53-L55 (ApJL Homepage)
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NASA/STI Keywords:
Earth Atmosphere, Environment Effects, Gamma Ray Bursts, Gamma Rays, Nitric Oxide, Ozone Depletion, Photodissociation, Spatial Distribution, Astronomical Models, Biosphere, Data Reduction, Luminosity, Radiant Flux Density, Solar Flares, Ultraviolet Radiation
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The observation by the Burst and Transient Source Experiment (BATSE) instrument on the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory that gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) are distributed isotropically around Earth but nonuniformly in distance has led to the widespread conclusion that GRBs are most likely to be at cosmological distances, making them the most luminous sources known in the universe. If bursts arise from events that occur in normal galaxies, such as neutron star binary inspirals, then they will also occur in our Galaxy about every 105-106 years. The gamma-ray flux at Earth due to a Galactic GRB would far exceed that from even the largest solar flares. The absorption of this radiation in the atmosphere would substantially increase the stratospheric nitric oxide concentration through photo- dissociation of N2, greatly reducing the ozone concentration for several years through NO(x) catalysis, with important biospheric effects due to increased solar ultraviolet flux. A nearby GRB may also leave traces in anomalous radionuclide abundances.

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