When a supernova occurs, it releases a burst of neutrinos and gamma rays that would obliterate life anywhere in the vicinity – within a couple of hundred light years, apparently. There’s no obvious supernova candidates nearby, so this isn’t something to worry about – it’s more of an amusing science fiction plot.
When a binary supernova occurs (two stars circling into one another), gamma rays are concentrated in two beams shooting out along the axis around which the two stars are rotating. Because it’s so concentrated, the range at which it is harmful is much greater – apparently, some researchers suggest that a late Ordovician mass extinction was due to something like this.
Anyway, the picture is of a binary system about 8000 lyrs away. It’s rather a pretty barrel to be looking down, really..
via Cosmos. Read the article for more interesting details..