Astronomer Predicts a Nova Eruption for first Time

Scientists make predictions, that’s how we know that our models are correct. If we can forecast that something will happen before it happens we must have a good idea of just what’s causing it to happen.

In my blog back on January the first I mention the total solar eclipse that’s going to happen on the 17th of August of this year and scientists have been predicting eclipses now since the time of the Roman emperor Claudius.

A few predictions have been some of the greatest moments in the history of science, such as when Edmund Halley predicted that a comet would return or when Paul Dirac predicted the existence of Anti-matter. Just a few years ago the discovery of the Higgs boson confirmed a prediction made by Peter Higgs back in the 1960s.

Now Astronomer Lawrence Molnar of Calvin College in Grand Rapids Michigan is making the first ever prediction of the eruption of a Nova, the explosion of a particular star system. The star system in question is called KIC 9832227, a 12th magnitude system in the constellation in the of Cygnus. The system consists of three stars, two of which form a contact binary, that is two stars that are so close to each other that they are “kissing”. See picture below.

Star Merger Geometry. L. Molnar, Calvin College

Professor Molnar and his team have been studying KIC9832227 for many years now and have noted an acceleration in the orbit period of the two stars, an acceleration which is increasing exponentially. Based on these observations Professor Molnar predicts that in 2022, give or take a year the stars will merge into one and that the resulting explosion will make the 12th magnitude system temporarily visible to the naked eye, a new star or Nova will appear briefly in our night sky.

While not as spectacular as a Supernova, where a star 10 or more times as massive as our Sun explodes in a fireball as bright as an entire Galaxy this is the first time anyone has been bold enough to predict a date on when a nova will occur. I hope that five years from now I get to see KIC 9832227 as it goes Nova. If it does Professor Molnar will have joined the ranks of Halley and Dirac and many others whose predictions have done so much to advance human knowledge. You can read an article on Professor Molnar’s work at Sky and Telescope Magazine by clicking on the link below.

Before I go I want to also mention a new, and I think very beautiful picture of our Earth with the Moon that has been taken from orbit around Mars by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Earth and Moon as seen from Mars- NASA Picture

If you’d like a better picture check out the article at by clicking below.

P.S. I finally got around to making a unique header image for Science and Science Fiction. I hope you like it!