Editorial Question: What else could these high energy cosmic rays have caused? Thoughts?
A bombardment of cosmic rays from ancient supernovae may have triggered a series of events that encouraged early human ancestors to walk upright, according to a new study published in the Journal of Geology. The scientists behind the research believe that the cosmic explosion could have helped trigger a shift in Earth’s environment that forced humanity’s fore bearers to adapt.
Supernovae are some of the most dramatic and energetic events known to take place in the visible universe. They can occur either when a white dwarf strips too much matter from a nearby companion star, causing it to become unstable, or when a stellar body many times the mass of our Sun runs out of material to fuel the nuclear fusion process raging in its core.
The end result of both scenarios is a violent explosion that seeds the surrounding environment with vast amounts of stellar material, and bombards worlds hundreds of light-years away with cosmic rays.
There is evidence to suggest that Earth’s atmosphere has been interacting with cosmic energy thrown out by a series of supernovae explosions for the last 8 million years. The authors of a recently published study assert that, at the peak of the bombardment, roughly 2.6 million years ago, the radiation was partially responsible for reshaping the environment of northeast Africa, where humanity’s ancestors where developing.
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“We contend it would increase the ionization of the lower atmosphere by 50-fold,” said Melott, lead author of the study. Usually, you don’t get lower-atmosphere ionization because cosmic rays don’t penetrate that far, but the more energetic ones from supernovae come right down to the surface — so there would be a lot of electrons being knocked out of the atmosphere.”