Think you know the night sky like the back of your hand? Around the year 2022 some astronomers are pretty certain a new star will join the firmament after two stars collide near the constellation of Cygnus.
A new paper submitted to The Astrophysical Journal concerns KIC 9832227, a contact binary, and how it will brighten ten thousandfold sometime in the near future. What’s happening is this pair of stars are spiralling in towards each other, becoming so close that they now share the same stellar atmosphere. Lawrence Molnar and his colleagues reckon we’ll witness this spectacular collision, and subsequent nova, within our lifetimes.
Right now KIC 9832227 is a magnitude 12 star, too faint for the naked eye, in the neighborhood of Delta Cygni. Even with perfect stargazing conditions, an observer will need at least an 8 inch / 203 mm telescope to catch its light. When KIC 9832227 finally explodes it will be as bright as Polaris, or Alpha Hydrae for our Australian friends, burning at second magnitude. While that brightness is hardly remarkable, unlike the immanent Eta Carinae supernova, keep in mind this pair is ~1,800 light years from us. KIC 9832227’s aftermath as a luminous red nova will glow in our skies for only a few weeks, or months, before fading away. Best of all, it will be visible from both hemispheres.