Metals protect Milky Way from gamma-ray bursts

Do you lie awake at night worrying that life on Earth might one day be destroyed by a blast of gamma radiation from space? Then don’t, because a team of astronomers in the US has calculated that the probability of such an event occurring in our galaxy is virtually zero. Krzysztof Stanek and colleagues at Ohio State University say that gamma-ray bursts — the most powerful explosions in the universe after the big bang — only tend to occur in small, misshapen “metal-poor” galaxies. Our Milky Way is safe since it is a large spiral galaxy that contains lots of heavy elements.

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