– A pair of stars in the constellation Cygnus will crash into each other approximately in 2022 according to a unique prediction. Stellar collisions occur about once every 10,000 years and are considered very rare celestial events.
One of the students, Daniel Van Noord, in a team of Calvin College professor Larry Molnar, contributed much to this conclusion.
“He looked at how the color of the star correlated with brightness and determined it was definitely a binary,” Molnar said in a Calvin College press release.
“In fact, he discovered it was actually a contact binary, in which the two stars share a common atmosphere, like two peanuts sharing a single shell.”
“It’s a one-in-a-million chance that you can predict an explosion,” Molnar said of his bold prognostication. “It’s never been done before.”
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When these two binary stars crash into each other, they will release a massive amount of light and energy known as a red nova, increasing the star’s brightness by ten thousand times. At that time, the star will be visible as part of the constellation Cygnus, and will add a star to the recognizable Northern Cross star pattern.
The two stars, jointly called KIC 9832227, are located 1,800 light years away from Earth.
“If Larry’s prediction is correct, his project will demonstrate for the first time that astronomers can catch certain binary stars in the act of dying, and that they can track the last few years of a stellar death spiral up to the point of final, dramatic explosion,” said Matt Walhout, dean for research and scholarship at Calvin College.
“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. “If the prediction is correct, then for the first time in history, parents will be able to point to a dark spot in the sky and say, ‘Watch, kids, there’s a star hiding in there, but soon it’s going to light up.’”
Molnar says that this is the beginning of a story that will unfold over the next several years, and people of all levels can participate.