Astronomers predict that a stellar explosion in 2022 will appear as a new star in Earth’s night sky.
According to EarthSky, the stars in the binary system called KIC 9832227 are expected to collide in five years. The prediction was first made in 2015, and as the predicted merger date draws closer, the case is building for an explosion to occur in 2022, give or take a year.
“It’s a one-in-a-million chance that you can predict an explosion. It’s never been done before,” Larry Molnar of Calvin College said.
Molnar explained that KIC 9832227 is “a contact binary, in which the two stars share a common atmosphere, like two peanuts sharing a single shell.”
Another contact binary — V1309 Scorpii – merged and exploded in 2008, causing a red nova type of stellar explosion. The fate of V1309 Scorpii has served as a “Rosetta stone” for Molnar and his colleagues when predicting the future of KIC 9832227.
KIC 9832227 is also an eclipsing binary system, which means that one star passes in front of the other as viewed from Earth.
When the binary system merges violently into a single star, KIC 9832227 will become ten thousand times brighter, making it visible from Earth with the naked eye.
The newly visible star will appear in the constellation Cygnus, just off the edge of the Northern Cross.
Molnar stresses that amateur astronomers can become involved in tracking the progress of the impending merger.
“The orbital timing can be checked by amateur astronomers,” Molnar said. “They can measure the brightness variations with time of this 12th-magnitude star as it eclipses and see for themselves if it is continuing on the schedule we are predicting or not.”