Exploding star triggered one of Earth's five great extinctions: study

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Scientists from the University of Illinois propose that a supernova approximately 65 light-years from Earth triggered the Late Devonian Extinction, one of the five great mass extinction events in our planet's history.

According to a new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the authors propose that cosmic rays from the supernova could have bombarded the Earth for up to 100,000 years.

The authors hypothesize that cosmic rays from the supernova could have continuously depleted the ozone layer, letting in more harmful ultraviolet radiation. In addition, the cosmic rays also bathed the Earth in their own harmful radiation. This double-whammy led to the mass extinction.

The Devonian Period lasted from 419 million to 359 million years ago. It is often known as the "Age of Fishes." The first insects, trees and tetrapods also appeared during the Devonian.

RUNDOWN SHOWS:
1. Depiction of a supernova 65 light-years from Earth that may have caused the Late Devonian Extinction
2. Cosmic rays from the supernova bombarded Earth for up to 100,000 years
3. Plant spores from the Devonian-Carboniferous boundary appeared to have been damaged by ultraviolet light due to depletion of the ozone layer
4. New study suggests cosmic rays from the supernova depleted the ozone layer and caused harmful radiation damage to life on Earth
5. Depiction of line in the ocean Late Devonian
6. Depiction of life on land during the Late Devonian

VOICEOVER (in English):

"Scientists from the University of Illinois propose that a supernova approximately 65 light-years from Earth triggered the Late Devonian Extinction, one of the five great mass extinction events in our planet's history."

"Their explanation was proposed in a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In the paper, the authors say cosmic rays from the supernova could have bombarded the Earth for up to 100,000 years."

"Researchers found radioactive isotopes that could have been created in the supernova and plant spores deposited in rocks from the Devonian-Carboniferous boundary that appeared to have been damaged by ultraviolet radiation — signs of an ozone depletion event."

"The authors hypothesize that cosmic rays from the supernova could have continuously depleted the ozone layer, letting in more harmful UV radiation. In addition, the cosmic rays also bathed the Earth in their own harmful radiation. This double-whammy led to the mass extinction."

"The Devonian Period lasted from 419 million to 359 million years ago. It is often known as the 'Age of Fishes,' as fish underwent substantial diversification during the period."

"However, there were other significant developments in biodiversity during the Devonian. The first insects appeared and by the Late Devonian forests took shape and tetrapods evolved to walk on land."

SOURCES: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, University of Illinois, Science Alert, Discover
https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/08/17/2013774117
https://news.illinois.edu/view/6367/750171228
https://www.sciencealert.com/exploding-stars-65-light-years-from-earth-may-have-triggered-ancient-mass-extinction
https://www.discovermagazine.com/planet-earth/how-life-first-left-water-and-walked-ashore