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Supernova T Pyxidis explosion can end Earth: Scientists

SupernovaT Pyxidis. NASA Photo.

LONDON (PTI): In what seems to be straight out of a science fiction, American scientists have claimed the Earth could soon be wiped out by a supernova or the explosion of a star.

The star, called T Pyxidis, is set to self-destruct in an explosion with the force of 20 billion megatons of TNT and could strip away the Earth's ozone layer, the astronomers from Villanova University, Philadelphia, said.

According to them, the International Ultraviolet Explorer satellite has shown that T Pyxidis, believed to be 3,260 light-years away, is really two stars -- one called a white dwarf that is sucking in gas and steadily growing, The Daily Telegraph reported.

When it reaches a critical mass it will blow itself into pieces, they said while presenting their study at the American Astronomical Society (AAS) conference in Washington.

"It will become as bright as all the other stars in the galaxy put together. The Hubble space telescope has photographed the star preparing for its big bang with a series of smaller blasts or 'burps', called novas," the newspaper quoted the scientists as saying.

Such explosions came regularly about every 20 years from 1890, but stopped after 1967. So the next blast is nearly 20 years overdue, said scientists Edward M Sion, Patrick Godon and Timothy McClain at the AAS conference.

Robin Scagell, Vice president of Britain's Society for Popular Astronomy, said: "The star may certainly become a supernova soon - but soon could still be a long way off so don't have nightmares.

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