Scientists make a prediction of two stars colliding, forming a red nova that can be viewed in skies without a telescope.
Scientists have been tracking a pair of stars that are orbiting each other in the constellation Cygnus, and they believe they can now predict when the two ever-nearing stars will collide, causing a giant display in the heavens that will be so bright it can be seen without the aid of a telescope.
At least that is what Larry Molnar, of Calvin College and his research team are saying. Molnar was cited by npr.org as saying that the two stars are sharing a common atmosphere and compared them to two peanuts in a single shell.
The research team has been tracking the stars, known collectively as KIC 9832227, since 2013, and have noted their orbital period has been slowing. They believe the two are following a pattern observed when another star exploded unexpectedly back in 2008.
The scientists say they have ruled out other explanations for what may be causing the orbital period to slow, and by the process of elimination, have found increased confidence in their prediction of a collision.
If it does happen, it will be the first time scientists have been able to predict such an event in the skies, although the prediction for occurrence in 2022 is hedged by giving or taking a year.
The researchers day the two stars will eventually merge and explode, and that act will create a flash in the sky that is increased by as much as ten thousand times a bright as they are now. That extra-bright star, known as a red nova, will be visible for almost a year in the dark skies.
According to National Geographic, Molnar told participants at a presentation in the meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Grapevine, Texas, “This is the first ever prediction of an explosion. We don’t know yet whether it’s right or wrong, but it’s the first time we can actually make such a prediction.”
“It will be a very dramatic change in the sky, as anyone can see it. You won’t need a telescope to tell me in 2023 whether I was wrong or I was right,” he added.