Supernova Blues

LiveScience reveals a new risk to our fragile, blue planet from exploding stars. It’s not that they’re likely to blast us all with life-destroying jets of radiation. It’s that they could give all of us the blues:

The radiation would illuminate the evening sky with a bluish glow nearly strong enough to read by, and the effect would likely last for months — perhaps six or more.

The cumulative effects of long-duration exposure to blue-enhanced light would begin to interfere with life on Earth.

Those who study chronobiology, or the effects of biological timing, have found that low levels of blue light can strongly affect the endocrine systems of mammals by causing physiological and alerting responses. Blue-enhanced light is associated with reduced levels of melatonin production and affects circadian rhythms. For these reasons, it is sometimes prescribed to counteract seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or winter depression.

“This is not going to be an ‘everything dies immediately’ kind of event,” Thomas said. “But with the risk factors associated with higher levels of this kind of light it’s certainly something that could be important in the longer run.”

In a paper about to be published in the journal Astrobiology, Thomas explains that even short exposures to blue light can increase insomnia, reduce resistance to infection and is being studied as a possible risk of cancer.