A team of astronomers managed to track down a unique ‘’pinwheel’’ star system, sadly destined to disappear in a giant explosion that could release an unprecedented amount of gamma radiation.
The system is located at approximately 8,000 light-years away from Earth, residing in the southern part of the Norma Constellation. Named Apep, after the Egyptian God of Chaos, the system features two stars that orbit each other. One of them is on the verge of entering the supernova state, which will be followed by a violent explosion. The explosion will be unlike anything that was previously observed, since it will generate an overwhelming amount of energy.
One of the researchers noted that this is the first system of this type to be identified inside the Milky Way. As the star orbit each other they generate high-velocity solar winds. These winds are continuously displacing a high-amount of dust and creating the pinwheel effect.
The star is already spinning at incredible speeds and while it is approaching the supernova state an eventual explosion will come after several thousands of years.
A gamma-ray burst ranks among the most destructive events in the universe. It can last from a moment to several hours and the energy that is emitted is on par with the one emitted by the sun during the whole span of its life.
It seems that the burst won’t come towards Earth, which is great news since it is capable to destroy the entire ozone layer, exposing the planet to dangerous amounts of ultraviolet light. It is thought by some that a similar event could be blamed for a mass extinction that occurred more than 450 million years ago.
The discovery took place while astronomers where observing the zone with a high-power radio telescope. Further information is available in a study that has been recently published in a peer-reviewed journal.