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The Planet

Look Up, Our Night Sky Will Soon Change Forever

by Kate Ryan

January 9, 2017
Image via Pexels

You can’t see them now, but in five years, two enormous stars will collide, intensifying their collective brightness by a factor of 10,000 and instantly becoming one of the brightest stars in the sky. We’ll be able to see the explosion happen before our very eyes, says astronomer Larry Molnar, who made the groundbreaking (or rather sky-shattering) prediction on Saturday at the American Astronomical Society’s meeting in Grapevine, Texas.

Of course, we’re talking about stars that exist about 1,800 light years away from us. The explosion happened years ago, but the resulting surge of light will finally reach us in 2022—give or take a year—says Molnar. If his prediction is correct, we’ll be able to see the massive star become increasingly bright over the course of a few months, effectively allowing us to watch the merge happen in real time. It’ll certainly be mesmerizing for us to watch, but for astronomers, it could provide major insight into how stars develop over time.

According to Vox, this is the first time in history a scientist has predicted the collision of two stars that orbit each other. Seeing the aftermath of similar events has clued researchers in to how these events take place, but never have they anticipated a developing stellar collision from our earthbound perspective. Molnar and his team of researchers pegged one binary star system for collision after noticing its orbit speed growing faster and faster over the course of two years.

To give you a slightly better idea of what to expect, one of the stars in this system is 40 percent larger than our sun, while its companion star is a third of the size. The larger star will essentially absorb the smaller one, creating one especially bright star to light up our night sky. While there are still some unknowns concerning this astronomical union, one thing is for certain: The Spice Girls’ “2 Become 1” will serve as the theme song, for obvious reasons.

To see a digital imagining of what two massive stars colliding might look like, check out NASA’s video below. To see it in real life, mark your calendars for nonstop stargazing in 2022.

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Look Up, Our Night Sky Will Soon Change Forever