Astronomers using three orbiting space telescopes have discovered a huge intergalactic death ray.
A supermassive black hole is blasting a nearby galaxy — in space terms, 20,000 light-years seems to qualify as “nearby” — with an intense beam of highly charged radiation. If there were any life forms in the smaller galaxy, they’re gone now, and the galaxy itself could be pounded into the formation of new stars. The huge jet of radiation — gamma rays and X-rays — is then deflected into space in a process that could continue for millions more years.
None of this will affect Earth because the two galaxies are more than 1.4 billion light-years away from our own Milky Way.
A similar situation could, though, happen here as the galaxy Andromeda edges ever closer to the Milky Way.
The team leader, Dan Evans of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, explained to The Washington Post what would happen:
“If a jet were to hit Earth, Evans said, it would destroy the ozone layer and collapse the magnetosphere that blankets the planet and protects it from harmful solar particles. Without the ozone layer and magnetosphere, he said, much of life on Earth would end.”
It could happen — in about a billion years. Mark your calendar accordingly.