reply to post by AQ6666
Ian: It sounds like a great research area - I just love the fact we can get this much information from a star system 8000 light years away (is that the correct distance?) I suppose the burning question (pardon the pun) is what if WR 104 really was pointing right at us? Would it really be cause for concern? Or is it really hype? Grant: Distance estimates vary. The closest I think I have seen is about 5,000 light years. The farthest is about 8,500. I think that most experts agree that the WR star in WR 104 will go supernova within (astronomically speaking) the near future. By that I mean the next few hundred thousand years. Will this SN also be a GRB? That may come down to whether or not it is rapidly rotating. That is probably not likely, but can not be ruled out. Would we see it as a GRB? That comes down to whether it is pointed our way. Would it be dangerous? Again that depends on just how exactly it is pointed our way and how narrow the beam is. I have seen estimates by others that it is close enough there could be effects (bad ones) on the earth's biosphere.
WR 104 is a Wolf-Rayet star discovered in 1998, located 8,000 light years from Earth. It is a binary star with a class OB companion.
The stars have an orbital period of 220 days and the interaction between their stellar winds produce a spiral "pinwheel" outflow pattern over 200 astronomical units long. The spiral is composed of dust that would normally be prevented from forming by WR 104's intense radiation were it not for the star's companion. The region where the stellar wind from the two massive stars interacts compresses the material enough for the dust to form, and the rotation of the system causes the spiral-shaped pattern.
Some optical measurements indicate that WR 104's rotational axis is aligned within 16° of Earth. This could have potential implications to the effects of WR 104's eventual supernova, since these explosions often produce jets from their rotational poles. It is possible that WR 104 may even produce a gamma-ray burst, though it is not possible to predict with certainty at this time.
Newer spectroscopic data suggest that WR 104's rotational axis is more likely angled 30–40° from Earth.