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Comets can't explain 'alien structure' star


Posted on Sunday, 17 January, 2016 | Comment icon 244 comments

The cause of the anomalous readings continue to remain a mystery. Image Credit: NASA / Rick Guidice
An astronomical anomaly thought by some to be an 'alien megastructure' has continued to defy explanation.
Originally picked up between the constellations Cygnus and Lyra by the Kepler Space Telescope in 2009, the star known as KIC 8462852 has long proven something of an enigma to astronomers.

Unlike most other planet-hosting stars which exhibit slight periodic dips when their planets pass in front of them, this one seemed to be exhibiting extremely erratic dips indicative of a large, tightly packed assortment of matter in orbit around it.

Back in October, astronomer Jason Wright suggested that this could indicate the presence of a 'megastructure' in space - one built by an advanced alien civilization - an idea that had been previously put forward by SETI in relation to its hunt for signs of intelligent extraterrestrials.

Later reports attempted to play down this idea by suggesting that the anomaly was instead a cloud of comets in orbit around KIC 8462852, but now a renewed research effort has discovered that the star had actually been dimming gradually for over a century - a fact which seems to discount the comet theory and leaves astronomers once again scratching their heads.

"The comet-family idea was reasonably put forth as the best of the proposals, even while acknowledging that they all were a poor lot," said astrophysicist Bradley Schaefer.

"But now we have a refutation of the idea, and indeed, of all published ideas."

Source: New Scientist | Comments (244)

Tags: Star, Extraterrestrial, Megastructure


 
Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #235 Posted by Mike Fox on 26 January, 2016, 16:20
Well there is another possible explanation.... What if there is one or more moving objects between Tabby's star and our solar system, that are coming progressively towards us. They wouldn't have to be THAT big if they were a lot closer (think about your thumb obscuring the whole sun). The minor variations in brightness being caused by some of the objects not being quite in line, and dimming could vary as the earth moves around our sun taking others out of direct alignment. Mike
Comment icon #236 Posted by ChrLzs on 26 January, 2016, 22:22
There is a also the possibility of thick nebulosity with a strong filamentary or wave structure passing between us and the star. I'm trying to think of a better example, but something like this:
Comment icon #237 Posted by Harte on 26 January, 2016, 23:27
Such obstructions would exhibit absorption lines in their spectra. I'm too lazy to look further into this. Harte
Comment icon #238 Posted by Merc14 on 27 January, 2016, 2:38
Such obstructions would exhibit absorption lines in their spectra. I'm too lazy to look further into this. Harte As we used to say in the Navy when the aircraft was doing something particularly odd, "Let the guys with the 40lb heads figure it out, we just fly the things."
Comment icon #239 Posted by Derek Willis on 27 January, 2016, 17:23
Well there is another possible explanation.... What if there is one or more moving objects between Tabby's star and our solar system, that are coming progressively towards us. They wouldn't have to be THAT big if they were a lot closer (think about your thumb obscuring the whole sun). Mike At a distance of a quarter of a million miles, to obscure the whole Sun you need something the size of the Moon.
Comment icon #240 Posted by Aftermath on 31 March, 2016, 20:15
An update: http://www.forbes.com/sites/brucedorminey/2016/03/31/astronomers-cant-rule-out-alien-megastructure-new-observations-soon/#7dd80735566c From the article: “The most puzzling thing is that it looked like a normal star for most of the four years that Kepler observed it,” said Metcalfe. “But on a few occasions something eclipses up to 20% of the light for days at a time. It’s not like anything we’ve ever seen before.” “I don’t know a single professional [astronomer] that thinks this is an artificial structure, but until we look, we can’t rule it out,” Yale University astronomer Tabetha B... [More]
Comment icon #241 Posted by Thorvir Hrothgaard on 31 March, 2016, 21:44
Wasn't this a story a few months ago?
Comment icon #242 Posted by Ell on 30 April, 2016, 9:38
A recently published article explains the dimming from the complete ionization of helium. A similar process occurs in Cepheid stars; the difference being that Cepheids are not in hydrostatic equilibrium. "KIC 8462852 Solved" https://goo.gl/ng7ey9
Comment icon #243 Posted by ChrLzs on 30 April, 2016, 11:20
“I don’t know a single professional [astronomer] that thinks this is an artificial structure, but until we look, we can’t rule it out,” Yale University astronomer Tabetha Boyajian, the crowdfunding project’s team leader, told me. erm, huh??? Well, Tabetha, just as well you are there to keep that speculation going strong, given you want funds....
Comment icon #244 Posted by bison on 13 June, 2016, 18:47
KIC 8462852 remains a scientific enigma. It's proposed that it be watched steadfastly for further dips in brightness, and that when these occur, its light then be scientifically analyzed. It this way, it should be possible to learn what is  causing this star to fluctuate in such a puzzling way. Dr. Boyajian and her team have an ongoing Kickstarter campaign underway. They want to purchase observing time on a network of private astronomical observatories. In order to do this, they still need the support of all persons interested in the solution of this fascinating scientific mystery. Their Kicks... [More]


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