Asked by James Haughty
If it was close enough, then yes. Astronomers predict that if a supernova were to explode within 30 light years of us, a mass extinction would be possible. X-rays and the more energetic gamma rays brought about by a star’s explosion would destroy Earth’s ozone layer and ionise nitrogen and oxygen in the atmosphere, leading to the formation of large amounts of smog-like nitrous oxide in the atmosphere. Supernovae occur every 100 years in the Milky Way.
Since our galaxy is a large place though, and since the Sun is located near the outskirts of the Milky Way where few stars are massive enough to explode as a supernova, having one go off within 30 light years off us should, on average, happen only once every 100 million years.
Answered by Sophie Allan at the National Space Centre
Got a question for us? Send it into email@example.com and you could see it featured in All About Space – available every month for just £4.99. Alternatively you can subscribe here for a fraction of the price!