Published: Fri, January 13, 2017
Science | By Hubert Green

Celestial explosion predicted to light up the night sky in 2022

Celestial explosion predicted to light up the night sky in 2022

Molnar's prediction is that a binary star (two stars orbiting each other) he is monitoring will merge and explode in 2022, give or take a year; at which time the star will increase its brightness ten thousand fold, becoming one of the brighter stars in the heavens for a time.

The stars will end their lives in an explosion, known as a supernova, he says.

If their calculations are correct, the explosion would be about as bright as Polaris, the North Star, according to National Geographic.

It could be one of the biggest astronomical events in years ― a star explosion so intense it could literally change the night sky.

A supernova happens where there is a change in the core of a star. Then the hunt will be on to find other binary stars like it, and see if we can predict more of these collisions. Previous red novas have rivaled even the most powerful stars in the galaxy.

Professor Larry Molnar from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, claims to have predicted one in advance, for the first time.

The star will be visible as part of the constellation Cygnus, and will add a star to the recognizable Northern Cross star pattern.

This is the first time experts have tried to forecast a cosmic explosion like this, and the researchers say there's usually only a "one-in-a-million chance" of being able to predict a new star before it actually appears. 'It's never been done before'.

In five years, you could have a front row seat to an explosive event that occurred 1,700 years ago.

A research assistant at Calvin, Daniel Van Noord, took on the challenge.

He decided to make some observations of the star with the Calvin observatory in order to answer the question.

They were able to rule out evidence of a companion star that would perturb the orbit, and compared the binary star's orbit with other contacting (when stars form the peanut stage) binary systems and saw the acceleration of KIC 9832227 speeding faster than usual.

"From there Dan determined a precise orbital period from Kinemuchi's Kepler satellite data (just under 11 hours) and was surprised to discover that the period was slightly less than that shown by earlier data" Professor Molnar continued. He said he'd been inspired by the work of Polish astronomer Romuald Tylenda, who in 2008 detailed observations of a star that showed the signatures of having been formed by a binary collision.

"The red-colored looking star will be this explosion". That information was crucial for Molnar and his team - he refers to it as a "Rosetta Stone".

One kind of supernova has shown scientists that we live in an expanding universe, one that is growing at an ever increasing rate.

Those observations should help to refine our models of contact binary star mergers and shore up Molnar's prediction.

Molnar and his students have been observing KIC 9832227 for several years now, along with fellow astronomers Karen Kinemuchi from Apache Point Observatory and Henry Kobulnicky from University of Wyoming.

Using his team's observations and data on the star from the past 14 years, the team produced a model of the star's orbital pathway two years ago and made predictions as to the path for the binary star.

"The project is significant not only because of the scientific results, but also because it is likely to capture the imagination of people on the street", said Walhout.

'Watch, kids, there's a star hiding in there, but soon it's going to light up'.

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