Home / World News / KIC 9832227: Typo throws out 2022 supernova prediction

KIC 9832227: Typo throws out 2022 supernova prediction

ASTRONOMERS around the world have been gearing up for a spectacle. Two stars in the constellation of Cygnus are locked in a death-spiral, swirling ever closer to one another. In 2022, it was predicted we could watch their brilliant fiery-red collision in real-time.

Not any more.

As is the narky nature of science, fellow astronomers have been trying to poke holes in the prophetic calculations ever since they were first published in 2017.

The mud thrown failed to stick, consistently.

Until now.

And it’s not the calculation’s fault.

media_cameraWatch this space … novas happen all the time. But the opportunity to predict one is something new.


The KIC 9832227 system is 1800 light years away.

There are two stars. And not much else.

That’s because the stars are so close to each other.

And their orbit is so fast, one year is the equivalent to just 11 of our days.

They’re so close, their atmospheres have begun to blend.

RELATED: NASA crashed a space probe to save Saturn’s life

What makes this particular close binary star system so interesting to astronomers is they are neatly aligned with Earth. Every time they orbit, one star eclipses the other from our perspective.

The resulting variation in brightness allows stargazers to track how fast the stars are merging. Their orbits are accelerating. And that enables the prediction when the stars will finally become close enough to tear each other apart.

KIC 9832227

The data behind the equation used to calculate the collision date has been gathered since 1999. Ongoing observations between 2007 and 2016 demonstrated that a dramatic acceleration is indeed underway.

RELATED: This robot will have its place in the Sun

Plugging the numbers into the right equations produced the 2022 end-date.

But a team of researchers led by Quentin Socia, a graduate student at San Diego State University, has issued another challenge — this time published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

media_cameraStellar explosions are most often associated with supernovae, the spectacular deaths of stars. But they can also be associated with star birth. Picture: ALMA


The researcher who originally produced the prediction has conceded defeat.

“Good science makes testable predictions,” Larry Molnar from Calvin College said.

“There have been a few other papers that have tried to poke at our project, and we’ve been able to poke back — criticisms that just don’t fly. But this one does fly, and I think they have a good point. This illustrates how science can be self-correcting.”

At the heart of the problem is a table of data relating to the 1999 observations of KIC 9832227.

One typo changed the time of an observed eclipse by 12 hours.

This error has since fed into every calculation made about the binary system’s orbits.

And that single 12-hour discrepancy, even when combined with the many other observations made since, was enough to throw the end result out.

RELATED: TESS takes up the planet-hunting baton

KIC 9832227 won’t go boom in 2022.

We know it will.

Just not when.


Astronomers will have to do the math all over again.

And check all the data — again.

“While this is disappointing from a public anticipation point of view, it’s an important scientific step that was necessary,” Socia says. “This is arguably the most important part of the scientific process. Knowledge advances the most when bold predictions are made, and people question and test those predictions”.

Meanwhile, Molnar has dusted off his calculator.

“The authors of the manuscript don’t question our fundamental premise, which is to say ‘this is something that you should be looking for, this is something that can be found’,” he said. “It’s actually because they agree with that fundamental premise that they dug deeper. And so the search for an impending stellar merger continues.”

Originally published as One typo destroyed a supernova

About brandsauthority

Check Also

Second earthquake hits the Philippines, killing 16

At least 16 people have died after a second earthquake struck the Philippines, less than …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: