How close would a supernova have to be to destroy life?
if a supernova was to go off within about 30 light years of us, that would lead to major effects on the earth, possibly mass extinctions. x-rays and more energetic gamma rays from the supernova could destroy the ozone layer that protects us from solar ultraviolet rays. it could also ionise nitrogen and oxygen in the atmosphere, leading to the formation of large amounts of smog-like nitrous oxide in the atmosphere.
Supernovae happen about once every 100 years in the Milky Way. But the Milky Way is a big place, roughly 100,000 light years across. Given that, and the fact that the Sun is near the outskirts of the Milky Way where few stars massive enough to become supernovae are born, having a supernova within 30 light years of the Sun should, on average, happen only once in every
100 million years.
the crab nebula (M1) is an ancientsupernova remnant
Dr Mark Reid is senior radio astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics