Gamma-ray Bursts and Terrestrial Planetary Atmospheres
Thomas, Brian C. and Melott, Adrian L.
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We describe results of modelling the effects on Earth-like planets of long-duration gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) within a few kiloparsecs. A primary effect is generation of nitrogen oxide compounds which deplete ozone. Ozone depletion leads to an increase in solar UVB radiation at the surface, enhancing DNA damage, particularly in marine microorganisms such as phytoplankton. In addition, we expect increased atmospheric opacity due to build-up of nitrogen dioxide produced by the burst and enhanced precipitation of nitric acid. We review here previous work on this subject and discuss recent developments, including further discussion of our estimates of the rates of impacting GRBs and the possible role of short-duration bursts.