A New Star in the Night Sky in 2022

Mar 8, 2018
New Star in Night Sky in 2022

V838 Monocerotis, one example of a red nova.

NASA

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A star is born! If you’ve followed my column, you may recall me saying that a new star will appear in the night sky.

This is exciting space news and worth sharing with more sky watch enthusiasts.

In 2022—only a few years from now—an odd type of exploding star called a red nova will appear in our skies in 2022. 

This will be the first naked eye nova in decades. And the mechanism behind it is fascinating as well.

This story really begins 10 years ago, when astronomers closely monitored a distant star in Scorpius. This was a double star where the two components were so close together they were actually touching. What was strange is that the orbital period was rapidly decreasing, strongly indicating that the stars might actually merge. Well, it really happened. In 2008, a red nova occurred in that spot, and afterward only one star remained. The two had merged.

Five years earlier, an astronomer predicted that a Red Nova is caused by the merger of stars in a binary system—so the 2008 Scorpius event confirmed that theory. 

And now it’s happening again. An astronomy professor at a small U.S. College, along with some of his students, predicted that the double star is just off the right wing tip of Cygnus the swan. From the way the orbit is speeding up from the current 11 hours, that Midwestern astronomer predicts they will merge in the year 2022, give or take half a year. It will be another red nova.

Because this star system is 1800 light years away, which is six times closer than that Scorpius star, the nova should be bright enough to be seen with the naked eye

Feeling the need to exaggerate, some news stories are saying it will be the brightest star in the sky. Most likely, it will be second magnitude, matching the stars of the Big Dipper. Still, this will be amazing, especially if you know enough backyard astronomy to recognize Cygnus’s shape and be excited by a new star that will extend its right wing.

(Since some news stories are saying it’s the Swan’s left wing, let me mention that yes, if you’re the swan it would be your left wing, but for us down below looking at it, it’s the wing on the right side which is the wing closest to the famous bright summer star Vega.)

We’ll watch that spot every night, especially starting four years from now!

Love stargazing? Read more:

Why do stars twinkle?

Should you name a star?

About This Blog

Welcome to “This Week’s Amazing Sky,” the Almanac’s blog on stargazing and astronomy. Bob Berman, longtime and famous astronomer for The Old Farmer’s Almanac, will help bring alive the wonders of our universe. From the beautiful stars and planets to magical auroras and eclipses, he covers everything under the Sun (and Moon)! Bob, the world’s mostly widely read astronomer, also has a new weekly podcast, Astounding Universe

Reader Comments

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Thumbs Up On the Subject... Thumbs Down On the Picture

This is a really great article, and I honestly cannot wait to see the nova. However, as someone who studies astronomy, I feel obligated to point out that the star in the picture is neither V1309 Scorpii nor KIC 9832227; it's actually V838 Monocerotis (which is also a red nova).

Photo

Thanks, Jacob. Bob wrote the article, but did not select the photo! That’s our correction to make and we’ll update the image

A NEW STAR IN THE NIGHT SKY

I would have mentioned that this even has already occurred. Roughly 1800 years ago in fact. We are just now getting ready to witness the event because of the speed at which light travels.

Geminga

Another famous nova was Geminga which is a beautiful old pulsar very close to Earth. I think she pulses at .237. She supposedly was visible to humans. When did that happens and did it have an effect on earth?

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