Scientists are using recent data on gamma-ray bursts (GRB) and the metallicity of their host galaxies to explore the possibility for GRB-induced extinction. Evidence would suggest that a large GRB is capable of producing an extinction-level event at a distance of 5,000 light years.
A gamma-ray burst is an intense flash of radiation from a dying star. The gamma radiation released from an event of this nature has the potential to destroy the ozone layer through ionization, making it impossible for life to exist. The team estimates that the GRB rate in our galaxy is 1/10 that of the average rate in the universe. They have additionally concluded, that there is a 60% chance that a GRB has caused an extinction level event within the past billion years.
Read the abstract by Tsvi Piran and Raul Jimenez
Possible Role of Gamma Ray Bursts on Life Extinction in the Universe