Around September 2015, the science community and the internet started going crazy over rumors of the discovery of an alien megastructure located approximately 1,480 light years from Earth. The theory wasn’t proposed by any conspiracy theorists either, but by astronomer Jason Wright, who did so only because of lack of other explanations regarding the star’s strange behavior. Namely, the celestial body’s unusual shift in brightness left too few possible explanations.
Though SETI was quick to investigate, they denied the existence of any evidence of alien Dyson sphere surrounding the object called KIC 8462852. It is now also known as Tabby’s Star, named so for astronomer Tabetha Boyajian from Yale University, the first to discover the star’s dimming light.
Comets and shattering planets have been suggested as possible explanations for the behavior that some could only attribute to an alien megastructure. A recent study by astronomer Bradley Schafer had created controversy by claiming that the star had dimmed by 14%, from 1890 to 1990.
As a somewhat skeptical response, Ben Montet from the California Institute of Technology and Joshua Simona from the Carnegie Institution in Washington have published a paper that has been accepted for publication by The Astrophysical Journal.
Their findings were no less outlandish. With the help of the Kepler telescope, the researchers noticed that the star had diminished its brightness by 1% during the three years in which it was held under observation.
More recently, however, in about six months, the star lost another 2% in brightness. Analyzing and comparing this pattern to Kepler data on other stars, scientists have found that, although there are others with large dimming patterns, none are known to have dropped their lightness in as little as six months of observation.
Montet admits that finding explanations for Tabby’s star deviance is “challenging.” However, he does hope that his study will help decipher its mystery, which only hard years of study will probably unlock.
Until then, we’re probably stuck with alien megastructure, a name which could be used as an anecdote to describe our limitations when it comes to understanding the Universe. And if no good explanation surfaces, then one day, hopefully, we’ll go there ourselves to see it.
Image source: Wikipedia
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