I live in Central Oregon, where this August the world will flock to our territory to witness a major total eclipse of the sun. As a follow-up to this celestial spectacle, Earthlings in the year 2022 should be able to observe an incredible red nova show that just might eclipse the upcoming solar blockage of 2017.
A dedicated team of astronomers at Michigan's Calvin College led by Professor Larry Molnar has been diligently observing a certain KIC 9832227 binary star system since it was first brought to their attention at a 2013 scientific conference. Utilizing data compiled by NASA's Kepler Space Telescope, the team became aware of its decaying orbital period and determined that at some point in the future these waltzing heavenly bodies would touch and explode.
Student Cara Alexander spent one long summer analyzing all the data, further convinced that the fateful stars would collide and form a rare red nova. This cosmic clash is predicted to unleash an unimaginable amount of energy, increasing the stars' brightness by a total factor of 10,000 ... and will be observable without the use of binoculars or telescopes to most of the world.
Molnar declared this predication last week at the meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Grapevine, Texas, which marks the first instance an astronomer has ever made such star-crashing claims.
"We know these things merge, but we really don't understand what mechanism that causes them to merge," Molnar said.
According to the team's complicated equations and number-crunching, the stars -- shining from their home 1,800 light-years away -- have already exploded and by approximately 2022, the results of that collision will be seen by the denizens of our planet. When the light rays reach our Big Blue Marble, humankind should see those doomed stars becoming noticeably brighter over the course of a few months in the constellation Cygnus.
Until then, all we can do is wait and hope that clear night skies will accompany this illuminating event.