Wednesday, July 17, 2013

1307.4253 (Dimitra Atri et al.)

Biological radiation dose from secondary particles in a Milky Way gamma ray burst    [PDF]

Dimitra Atri, Adrian L. Melott, Andrew Karam
Gamma ray bursts (GBRs) are a class of highly energetic explosions emitting radiation in a very short timescale of a few seconds and with a very narrow opening angle. Although, all GRBs observed so far are extragalactic in origin, there is a high probability of a GRB of galactic origin beaming towards the Earth in the past ~ 0.5 Gyr. Such an intense burst of gamma rays would ionize the atmosphere and deplete the ozone layer. With depleted ozone, there will be an increased flux of solar UVB on the Earth\~Os surface with harmful biological effects. In addition to the atmospheric damage, secondary particles produced by gamma ray-induced showers will reach the surface. Amongst all secondary particles, muons dominate the ground-level secondary particle flux (99% of the total number of particles) and are potentially of biological significance. Using the Monte Carlo simulation code CORSIKA, we modeled the air showers produced by gamma ray primaries up to 100 GeV. We found that the number of muons produced by hypothetical galactic GRBs significantly increases the total muon flux. However, since the muon production efficiency is extremely low for photon energy below 100 GeV, and because GRBs radiate strongly for only a very short time, we find that the biological radiation dose from secondary muons is negligible. The main mechanism of biological damage from GRBs is through solar UVB irradiation from the loss of ozone in the upper atmosphere.
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