Astronomers Think A Rare And Explosive 'Red Nova' Will Light Up The Night Sky In A Few Years

The V838 Monocerotis red supergiant, which may have been two stars that collided as a red nova. NASA/ESA/The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

What they found in 2015 is that it behaved much like V1309 Scorpii — one of the best-known binary systems to unpredictably merge — and that the stars' mutual orbits were closing in.

"Over the past ten years, the period of KIC 9832227 has been getting shorter at a faster and faster rate," Molnar and his team wrote in a research poster about their discovery. "This implies that the stars are orbiting faster and getting closer together."

The team has recently ruled out more "mundane" explanations for what they see, according to a January 7 press release by Calvin College.

Predicting a violent stellar outburst

Cygnus constellation red nova prediction.GIF

By using data from the few known examples, especially V1309 Scorpii, Molnar has calculated the approximate moment that the two stars of KIC 9832227 will collide: in the year 2022, "give or take a year," according to the release.

Molnar said the explosion should increase the brightness of the star system 1,000-fold, to about magnitude 2 — roughly as bright as Polaris, the North Star.

If and when the two stars collide, they aftermath might look something like V838 Monocerotis, a star which suddenly flashed in 2002, temporarily becoming 600,000 times brighter than the sun — and the brightest star in the Milky Way galaxy.

Astronomers aren't certain V838 Monocerotis is actually a red nova, but ever since 2002, the Hubble Space Telescope has kept its wandering eye on the expanding gas and dust of the object.

Researchers in 2006 morphed eight of those Hubble photos to show off the red nova's evolution. This animation shows 4 years compressed into 6 seconds:

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.

And being many times closer than a star like V838 Monocerotis, which is located some 20,000 light-years away, KIC 9832227 may also afford among the closest views of a stellar mega-eruption.

"If the star can completely merge, it can release as much energy as the sun would release in its entire lifetime," he said in the teaser video for "Luminous", adding that there's only "a one-in-a-million chance" to catch an event like this.

"Given the percentages of how many systems we have looked at and how unusual this event is," Molnar told Business Insider, "it seems unlikely that we should have found the next red nova so 'easily.'"


Read the original article on Tech Insider. Copyright 2016

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