By Vishal Goel, | January 07, 2017
A contact star system. (YouTube)
Scientists claim that in the year 2022, two stars will merge into one, while pushing out excess gas. This will result in an explosion known as a red nova. The explosion will be at magnitude 2, and will be as bright as the Polaris (or Pole Star). The collision in the constellation of Cygnus is expected to be visible for up to six months.
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The two stars, termed KIC 9832227, are currently contact binaries. A contact binary, discovered by Kepler, refers to two objects that are so close they are currently touching. The expected outcome of a contact binary is a merger between the two stars. Since both are low mass stars, Molnar expects the temperature to be low, thus describing it as a "red nova."
According to Astronomy, scientists have never been able to predict a nova. Lawrence Molnar, a professor of astronomy and physics at Calvin College, spotted a pair of oddly behaving stars, giving an indication of a nova.
Describing it as "a very specific prediction that can be tested, and a big explosion," Molnar and his team studied an example: V1309 Scorpii. First observed in the year 2008, astronomers watched the light curve as the event began. Following a few "booms" in the sky, a spectacular light show unfolded. Astronomers were able to trace it back the evolution from 2001, giving a big picture of the decade of progression of the event.
How was it concluded that V1309 was a merging star?
Molnar, in a press conference at the 229th meeting of the American Astronomical Society, said that V1309 was brightening before the explosion but it is not doing so today. That is because the stars have merged.
Not completely sure whether the prediction is going to be right, Molnar found using Kepler data that KIC 9832227 fit the lightcurve of V1309 almost perfectly. All radial velocity measurements seem to indicate a contact binary, and by aligning the light curve to the period, he and his team came to the conclusion that the merger would be completed in 2022.
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