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Astronomy/How to defend against WR 104?


Hello, let's say we are somewhat more advanced then today and WR 104 gamma burst is coming, could we defend ourselves by building some sort of magnetic shield around the Earth? How much energy would that take? Could it be done with let's say fusion reactors they're trying to make in ITER?


When those in the know say a GRB from WR 104 is "coming" they really mean any time from today to 500,000 years from now. That's how much uncertainty is attached to the potential event. For my odds, it is likely much later, and global warming is much more likely to take humans out than WR 104.  (Note the most recent data indicate that the mean global temperature rise by 2100 to be 4C-6c - in runaway greenhouse territory rather than just 2C).

As for "defending" ourselves I see no technological way to do it. In fact the only moderate way to do it is to ensure we aren't enlarging the ozone hole over the Antarctic given any WR 104 GRB is estimate to take out 50 percent of the ozone layer. Thankfully the cessation of use of CFCs (chloroflourocarbons) via the 1987 Montreal Protocol has caused human input of CFCs to stop - which were eroding the ozone layer. The bad news is that erosion is still going on because of the long length of time (up to 1,000 years) that CFCs remain in the atmosphere.

Still, recent research suggests that it is feasible all ozone hole erosion can be halted by 2070.

Re: fusion reactors, that is a total pipedream. We aren't even anywhere close to constructing a practical one given magnetic containment times are only on the order of seconds. Plus, you'd need hundreds of such reactors working in tandem to try to generate a "shield" to prevent solar UVB radiation from wreaking havoc. Indeed, I am not even sure such a shield is feasible given the vast area (200m  square miles) you'd need to protect.

As I said, I think we need to concern ourselves more with the vastly more immediate threats to extinction, of which the runaway greenhouse tops the list!


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Philip Stahl


I have more than forty years of experience in Astronomy, specifically solar and space physics. My specialties include the physics of solar flares, sunspots, including their effects on Earth and statistics pertaining to sunspot morphology and flare geo-effectiveness.


Astronomy: Worked at university observatory in college, doing astrographic measurements. Developed first ever astronomy curriculum for secondary schools in Caribbean. Gave workshops in astrophysics and astronomical measurements at Harry Bayley Observatory, Barbados. M.Phil. degree in Physics/Solar Physics and more than twenty years as researcher with discovery of SID flares. Developed of first ever consistent magnetic arcade model for solar flares incorporating energy dissipation and accumulation. Develop first ever loop solar flare model using double layers and incorporating cavity resonators.

American Astronomical Society (Solar Physics and Dynamical Astronomy divisions), American Mathematical Society, American Geophysical Union.

Solar Physics (journal), The Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, The Proceedings of the Meudon Solar Flare Workshop (1986), The Proceedings of the Caribbean Physics Conference (1985). Books: 'Selected Analyses in Solar Flare Plasma Dynamics', 'Physics Notes for Advanced Level'. 'Astronomy and Astrophysics: Notes, Problems and Solutions'.

B.A. Astronomy, M. Phil. Physics

Awards and Honors
American Astronomical Society Studentship Award (1984), Barbados Government Award for Solar Research (1980), Barbados Astronomical Society Award for Service as Journal Editor (1977-91)

Past/Present Clients
Caribbean Examinations Council, Barbados Astronomical Society, Trinidad & Tobago Astronomical Society.

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