Now that the Total Solar Eclipse of 2017 is over, some may wonder what is coming up next in the night sky that is different, unique and going to be an opportunity of perhaps a life to observe. The double star KIC 9832227 found in the Constellation of Cygnus, in the Telrad circle below.
The truth is, until around 2013 astronomers did not know that this faint star was really more than one star. To quote from the National Geographic article published on January 6th, 2017 called How to See a Star Explode in 2022, LINK, it states:
In 2013, Apache Point Observatory astronomer Karen Kinemuchi noticed that the blips in brightness could mean that two stars were periodically blotting each other out. Subsequent investigations by Calvin College student Daniel van Noord determined that to be the case.
Based on the timing and depth of those periodic eclipses, astronomers determined that one of the binary stars is about 40 percent larger than the sun, while the other is just one-third the sun’s size.
But there’s more. For at least 15 years, the KIC 9832227 has been in the crosshairs of telescopes, including NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler telescope, which stared at the system for nearly four years.
Now, scientists know the stars are so close to one another that they probably share a common, gassy shell—meaning that as the system whirls, it looks more like an astro-peanut than two discrete points of light
The binary stars are about 1800 light years from earth and currently orbit each other at around 11 hours, with both spinning in synchromism with their orbit so the stars are always facing the same side towards each other. This echoes what astronomer Romuald Tylenda had seen with the system V1309 Sco just before it unexpectedly went nova in 2008. Astronomers led by Lawrence (Larry) Molnar and his colleagues show that there is no third star involved in this system after reviewing over 30,000 image taken by the Calvin College Telescope. From their observations we know that the larger star is 40% larger than our Sun, while the smaller is 1/3 the size of the Sun.
Based on the available data, Molnar and his colleagues are predicting that the two stars will merge in 2022 with a +/- of 7 months. The system is currently at magnitude 12 in the Cygnus System, but when both stars merge, the resulting explosion will be called a Red Nova, something between a regular Supernova and a regular Nova LINK to Red Nova Wikipedia The Virtual Telescope Project states on how bright this Red Dwarf Nova may be if it occurs. They state HERE (you have to click through their two pop-ups).
As a consequence of this kind of collision, the brightness of the system can increase of an order of magnitude of 10,000: considering KIC 9832227 is shining now around magnitude 12, at the outburst peak we could expect an object quite bright out there, easy to see by naked eye, even from light polluted cities.
That is good news if in 2021 to 2023 we can go out in a suburban backyard or a dark site, and really see this merger of two stars into one. V1309 Scorpii is a close Red Dwarf explosion that we were able to witness and observe and more on that can be found at this Wikipedia LINK.
Now of course this is science, and in science things can change as new information is studied, collected and analyzed. So it is with great hope and anticipation that we want to see KIC 9832227 explode in the 2021 to 2023 years into a Red Nova that we can see naked eye. Hopefully a few of you will take time from to observe this over the next several years so that when it goes, you can document it. I will be doing that with my sketching and I hope some astro-photographers will do it also. The AAVSO or the home of variable stars which this is, has a page for this system located on their website HERE. I will post a more detail star chart next, and under that the references I used for this article. I hope some of you do indeed accept the challenge to document this event even if it doesn’t happen. There is always good that can come from it, and lets hope it happens in the June to October time frame here in the northern hemisphere.
Hopefully click to make it larger or go to this website to capture it yourself: LINK from the Virtual Telescope Project.
Sky&Telescope January 6th, 2017 LINK Paired Stars in Cygnus En Route to Merger
National Geographic How to See a Star Explode LINK