SUMMARY: Gamma ray busts are the most powerful known explosions in the Universe, so if one went off in our galactic back yard, it could be bad for life on Earth. Researchers working with NASA think that a massive extinction hundreds of millions of years ago could have been started by such an explosion. If a GRB went off only 6,000 light-years away, it would strip away much of the Earth's ozone layer, and expose all surface life to deadly levels of ultraviolet radiation from the Sun.

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