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Space Science

Scientists Predict Star Collision Visible To The Naked Eye In 2022 (npr.org) 126

Scientists predict that a pair of stars in the constellation Cygnus will collide in 2022, give or take a year, creating an explosion in the night sky so bright that it will be visible to the naked eye. From a report on NPR: If it happens, it would be the first time such an event was predicted by scientists. Calvin College professor Larry Molnar and his team said in a statement that two stars are orbiting each other now and "share a common atmosphere, like two peanuts sharing a single shell." They predict those two stars, jointly called KIC 9832227, will eventually "merge and explode ... at which time the star will increase its brightness ten thousand fold becoming one of the brighter stars in the heavens for a time." That extra-bright star is called a red nova. They recently presented their research at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Grapevine, Texas.
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Scientists Predict Star Collision Visible To The Naked Eye In 2022

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  • that cant be right (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 10, 2017 @10:42AM (#53641373)

    aren't they really predicting that the light from the stars colliding will reach us in 2022?

    • by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Tuesday January 10, 2017 @10:48AM (#53641411) Homepage

      Yes, but since they can't please normal people and pedants, they've gone with the description that both can easily understand.

      • Yes, but since they can't please normal people and pedants, they've gone with the description that both can easily understand.

        Exactly. The idea that something 1800 light years away "happened" at time X is kind of meaningless anyway, because our colloquial measurements of time (things like "1800 years ago" or "the third century") are dependent on being stuck in our local gravity well. It's like you get a call from the White House and your kid says "Don't you really mean you got a call from the first floor?"

        Well, sure. The first floor of not-your-house. It's a categorization that doesn't make sense in the context of the real univers

        • (OK, not entirely meaningless because it is a measure of time propagation through the universe, but pretty meaningless.)

    • If you really want to be pedantic, at least say "from the stars that collided".

    • There's no provable or usable mechanism by which we can travel to any part of the Universe faster than the speed of light, so trying to make a distinction between the "light of an event reaching us" vs. "the event being observed as it happens" is semantically meaningless.

      Information can't travel faster than light, and you can't currently get anywhere fast enough to prove otherwise.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Wulf2k ( 4703573 )

        If we send somebody to Mars and are listening to their final screams of agony as they realize there was a conversion error between Metric and Imperial, are they dying right now or have they been dead for 13 minutes?

        • by Black.Shuck ( 704538 ) on Tuesday January 10, 2017 @11:42AM (#53641791)

          It's a bit late to do something about it in either case, is it not?

        • 13 minutes

          What's the imperial equivalent unit of time measure?

        • If we send somebody to Mars and are listening to their final screams of agony as they realize there was a conversion error between Metric and Imperial, are they dying right now or have they been dead for 13 minutes?

          Schrodinger's cat scoffs at your scenario.

        • According to the Schroedinger's Cat approach, they were dead from the time they set off. Or is it half-dead?
      • There's no provable or usable mechanism by which we can travel to any part of the Universe faster than the speed of light, so trying to make a distinction between the "light of an event reaching us" vs. "the event being observed as it happens" is semantically meaningless.

        Information can't travel faster than light, and you can't currently get anywhere fast enough to prove otherwise.

        It's not meaningless at all.

        An astronaut stranded on a planet X distance away has enough power/water/supplies/porno to last Y time (from their perspective).

        If a rescue mission is launched from Earth as soon as the message is received, how fast will it need to travel (average velocity toward the stranded astronaut) to effect rescue?

        • There isn't nearly enough data to answer the question, and whatever data I can dream-up to fill the gaps doesn't solve the problem either.

          We can sit here and watch the astronaut die from afar, but we can't say that they died X light-years ago because the information of the event is propagating at that speed too. To send a rescue craft to reach them just before they perish and then return at light-speed, such events would happen (from our frame-of-reference) over the same duration it would have taken to just

          • Damn, you're dumb. I really lost it at "we can't say that they died X light-years ago". No, we certainly can't say that.

            If you know distance from the astronaut to Earth and they're using a radio, you know how long ago they sent the transmission from your perspective.
            You'll also know how long it's been from their perspective, to a precision and accuracy that far exceed what you'd to decide if rescue is viable.

            • Damn, you're dumb. I really lost it at "we can't say that they died X light-years ago". No, we certainly can't say that.

              Damn, you're a nice guy and I like you. Yes, I knew I'd be caught on the "light-years ago" point. I thought the years/light-years phrasing I used later would be back-ported by yourself and the intention correctly inferred. Lesson learned. I'll be explicit next time. I also made a mistake at the start of the 3rd paragraph: Replace *say* with *hypothesise* to get the gist of my meaning.

              Anyway, adding a radio into the mix is pure fluff, and so is the notion of precision. Neither say anything about when it is m

              • "Anyway, adding a radio into the mix is pure fluff, and so is the notion of precision. Neither say anything about when it is meaningful to say "Z happened" according to any particular "reference frame.""

                So, say, the astronaut is at Mars and suddenly he says to himself "Damn! I have food for only four (earth) years and I'll starve after that" and then he immediately presses the big red button that will summon the cavalry to the rescue back from Earth.

                Now, on the other hand, our hero is on a planet orbiting A

                • Darling, the fate of the astronaut in either case has nothing to do with it. The alpha centauri one is going to die before you get there, truly. But you cannot say he is "dead already" from your own reference frame. Well, you can on a /. thread obviously, but it's a philosophical point, not a scientific one.

                  You can make the trip to the doomed astronaut, and you can watch him die through your telescope before you get there (however the hell that might look when you're moving at relativistic speeds) but there

                  • "Yes, I get what you're trying to say, but it's a philosophical point only, which is another way of saying it's no bloody point at all."

                    It's philosophical only since it obviously is a mind experiment, but it wouldn't be philosophical at all for the astronauts: for the first one the Earth would expend millions and the astronaut would survive; the second one would die alone (without costing a dime) and the difference between both cases would certainly be our knowledge of (special) relativity and what "when" m

    • If you want to anal about it they should have said "The light from the stellar collision that happened {Insert distance to collision in Light-years} years ago".
      • by Anonymous Coward

        When that collision happened, they weren't 1800 light years away, since the universe expanded over that time, so we should use THAT measure!

        For bonus points, you have to ask "And we don't know within 10 years when that happened, so we can't say what DAY it happened on, can we!??!

        Which is 100% why we put when it happens in OUR FRAME OF REFERENCE. Because, like it or not, we're here in this frame of reference.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If the light hasn't reached us, it hasn't happened yet here.

    • We view everything in the past and describe it as if we saw it in real time. Only difference is, the light from the tree falling in front of me only took 20 nanoseconds to reach my eyes. Still, I just say "that tree just fell", not "that tree fell 20 nanoseconds ago and I just witnessed it now"

      • We view everything in the past and describe it as if we saw it in real time. Only difference is, the light from the tree falling in front of me only took 20 nanoseconds to reach my eyes. Still, I just say "that tree just fell", not "that tree fell 20 nanoseconds ago and I just witnessed it now"

        If a tree falls in the forest, and nobody is around to see it, does it emit photons?

  • then it must have already happened

    • by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Tuesday January 10, 2017 @10:46AM (#53641397) Homepage

      Not in all reference frames.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Fragnet ( 4224287 )
      It takes zero time for the light from the event to reach us in its frame of reference. According to the photons the event is zero distance away. So I'm not sure it makes any sense to talk about when or where the event happened.
      • by JustAnotherOldGuy ( 4145623 ) on Tuesday January 10, 2017 @11:09AM (#53641551)

        It takes zero time for the light from the event to reach us in its frame of reference. According to the photons the event is zero distance away.

        I interviewed several of the photons tomorrow and they called bullshit on your concept of zero distance.

  • by slashkitty ( 21637 ) on Tuesday January 10, 2017 @10:55AM (#53641463) Homepage
    While MOST stars you see at night are actually very close, these stars are about 1800 light-years away. So, yeah, the collision happened long ago and we are only soon able to see it.
    • I guess "Scientists are predicting something that already happened" doesn't have the same click power.
  • by JustAnotherOldGuy ( 4145623 ) on Tuesday January 10, 2017 @11:07AM (#53641537)

    Goddamn scientists, always predictin' shit and figurin' stuff out.

    Selfish bastards, at this rate there won't be any new discoveries left for the next generation of scientists to make.

  • This one actually explains that the expected explosion occurred sometime in the third century since the star is 1800 light years away. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sci... [telegraph.co.uk]
    • by Maritz ( 1829006 )
      It seems like roughly half the posts in this thread are people pointing out that light moves at a finite speed. Yeah. We fucking get it. It doesn't fucking matter.
  • Meh, I just saw Glenn Close crash the other night.
  • So, basically, a question: did something happen in AD 222 (or so) to celebrate the end of Trumpdom?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    it would happen in 2112, and worked in the name Rocinante somehow - I might pay more attention.

  • ... on Russian dash cam videos.

  • So, it's 1800 light years away, not exactly a close neighbor, but it will be an extraordinarily energetic event, no? So how bright is it expected to be -- just another dot in the sky, or are we talking Biblical night-into-day territory? Thanks.
    • Come to that will it also create a potentially nasty gamma-ray burst along with the extra visible light?

      • No.

        To generate gamma rays you need far more compact objects than star cores.

        I'm still trying to find the original work (the links so far are to a poster or presentation at an astronomical conference - so this is pretty fresh work) which should have the individual star's mass estimates, to estimate the effects on any planets in the system. I doubt they'd be destroyed (and there's no reason to expect them to be appreciably gravitationally disturbed - because nothing significant would change), but the larger

    • by tinkerton ( 199273 ) on Tuesday January 10, 2017 @03:29PM (#53643417)

      It will temporarily be about as bright as Polaris, the Pole Star. So visible to the naked eye, but not one of the brightest ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] )

  • Christ (Score:2, Insightful)

    Between pedantic jackasses and failed comedians, the comments on /. have gone seriously downhill of late. Time to reevaluate the modding system?

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