Two Stars Are On A Crash Course And The Red Nova Will Be Visible From Earth in 2022
Not that long ago, at least as the universe is concerned, some 1,800 years into the past, two stars part of a binary star system have collided. Of course, we haven’t seen that yet, because the light from the event is still travelling towards us at a speed of 186,000 miles per second.
Nevertheless, astronomer Larry Molnar from Calvin College in Michigan, together with his team have been studying the system, called KIC9832227, for some time now. And even though it’s some 1,800 light years away from us and the system is visible only by telescope, Molnar predicts that in 2022 anyone could see it with the naked eye.
The reason is that the two stars within the system are orbiting way to close to each other; roughly 3 times the distance of Earth from the Sun; and they even share an atmosphere at this point. According to the observations, the two stars are orbiting each other at an ever increasing rate, pointing towards an inevitable clash between them which will result in a red nova five years from now.
But as we’ve said before, the two stars have already collided even before the Western Roman Empire collapsed, but because of the huge distance between us and them, we will only be able to see it in 2022. Lucky for us, right?
Realising the inevitability of the event, Molnar and his team began looking for similar events in the archives. In 2008, the Hubble telescope captured images of one such red nova from another binary star system that no longer exists.
“We could see (in the archived data) that the period of the star was getting shorter over time. Shorter period means it’s spiralling in, and it was getting shorter at an ever-accelerating rate. That’s the Rosetta Stone I wanted to use to find the next one before it explodes,” Molnar said
But since we still can’t see it, this is still just a theory. But given all the information currently available, as well as other examples similar to this one, it will most likely happen. When it does in 2022, give or take one year, then the red nova will be 10,000 times more luminous that the two stars are today. It will take some six months for the red nova to reach peak brightness and will stay like that for several months more. By 2023, we will be able to see whether the astronomer’s predictions were right or wrong.