Two Stars Are Predicted to Collide Together in 2022

V838 Monocerotis, another red nova captured on camera in 2002

However, Larry Molnar, an astronomer at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has gone a big step further with a few colleagues: Over the past 2 years, he's claimed not only to have found such a system, but also predicted when it will blow up as a red nova.

But after watching the star system for three years, it's become clear his hypothesis is "progressing from theory to reality" as the stars - which orbit each other - appear to be getting closer to each other.

Should Molnar's prediction of the merger of KIC 9832227 prove correct, then astronomers will get one of the greatest heads-ups ever to a relatively rare and important event in the evolution of stars. "It's never been done before". This kind of event, called a luminous red nova, has only been observed a few times, and for a few months should shine brightly in the heavens, even to the naked eye. But Molnar's team is hoping for the best, planning to continue monitoring KIC 9832227 closely over the next five years in order to better understand the events leading up to the nova.

This mesh shows the shape of the contact binary star system KIC 9832227 as the smaller star partially eclipses the larger one.

Daniel Van Noord, Molnar's research assistant, took the challenge and tried to find the answer to Kinemuchi's question.

This discovery will allow researchers to obtain a lot of useful observational data which can be used in other research endeavors besides being able to monitor the eventual collision of the two stars in real time. "It's never been done before", he said. "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". Their orbital period is now just under 11 hours and as that period is getting shorter, the distance between the stars is becoming smaller. The pre-explosion record showed a contact binary with an orbital period decreasing at an accelerating rate. In that data, there was a pattern. However, more research was needed, as their work teemed with unknowns.

Every once in awhile, the stars actually do align - then merge, catastrophically explode, and spray their guts all over space.

At the moment, the orbital period of the KIC 9832227 bound to explode in the future is just under 11 hours.

Professor Larry Molnar and his students Karen Kinemuchi and Henry Kobulnicky first predicted the collision in 2015.

Molnar's prediction is based on years of observation of a system called KIC 9832227.

There could be some dramatic changes to the night sky if astronomers are correct in their observations.

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.

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