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'Alien megastructure' star is still a mystery

Posted on Monday, 8 August, 2016 | Comment icon 317 comments

Is there an alien structure around KIC 8462852 ? Image Credit: NASA / Rick Guidice
Astronomers are no closer to explaining the erratic behavior of this perplexing stellar phenomenon.
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.

In a recent study, astronomers Ben Montet and Joshua Simon scoured through all of the data recorded by the Kepler telescope to find traces of this particular star for comparison and analysis.

They determined that the star's dimming seemed to occur at 0.34% per year to begin with, yet inexplicably fell to 2.5% for 200 days before returning to its original dimming rate.

The pair even tried analyzing hundreds of other similar and nearby stars to look for the same type of behavior but were unable to find anything else like it at all.

So what could possibly be responsible for these peculiar observations ?

Some scientists have put forward the theory that a vast cloud of dust or comets may be gradually falling towards the star, however others have pointed out that such a cloud should have shown up on infra-red scans and no evidence of anything like this has ever been found.

More 'out there' theories have included the possibility that the phenomenon is the result of a large artificial structure in orbit around the star - an alien megastructure such as a Dyson Sphere.

SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence ) has even attempted to look for evidence of artificial laser light within the star's vicinity but so far their efforts have come up empty.

As it stands, KIC 8462852's peculiar dimming continues to remain a total mystery.

"We spent a long time trying to convince ourselves this wasn’t real," said Montet.

"We just weren’t able to."

Source: News.com.au | Comments (317)

Tags: Star, Megastructure

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #308 Posted by Merc14 on 21 May, 2017, 3:27
Really?   How bizarre, because Bison never mentions Dyson sphere and Dr. Boyajian together, he posted that she predicted a dimming in May 2017.  How in the hell have you construed that Bison is saying she favors a Dyson sphere from that post?   
Comment icon #309 Posted by Noteverythingisaconspiracy on 21 May, 2017, 10:36
That was actually Dysons original idea. He didn't think a solid structure was possible. "A solid shell or ring surrounding a star is mechanically impossible. The form of 'biosphere' which I envisaged consists of a loose collection or swarm of objects traveling on independent orbits around the star." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dyson_sphere
Comment icon #310 Posted by bison on 21 May, 2017, 16:49
An 'achromatic' spectrum, one not biased in favor of any part of the spectrum, reputedly argues against dust-based scenarios. These are: 1.) A huge swarm of comets in orbit of the star.  2.) Concentrated lumps of material in the interstellar medium that intermittantly move through a line between us and the star. 3.) Debris from a destroyed planet in that star system. All of these would weaken the shorter wavelengths of light -- ultraviolet, violet and blue, and leave red light relatively unaffected. Infrared light would probably be enhanced, due to dust absorbing the star's energy and reradiat... [More]
Comment icon #311 Posted by bison on 21 May, 2017, 17:00
Dr. Boyajian is a very careful scientist. She has not favored the megastructure scenario, preferring natural astrophysical explanations. She did predict a dimming of the star this month, based on the period between the two largest past dips. Scientific predictions are an important part of testing an hypothesis, in this case, one that ascribed a regular periodicity to the large dips in light output from the star. 
Comment icon #312 Posted by micky 32 on 22 May, 2017, 12:59
It will probably end up as something very simple causing it in the end " Ah that's what it was, should have thought of that" type scenario.  I have to wonder, if in the very unlikely event it does turn out to be alien the scientists may not reveal or be allowed to reveal that it's alien or if they do the story might change from it being alien to it's not alien.
Comment icon #313 Posted by Merc14 on 22 May, 2017, 13:22
Thanks Bison, that is what I thought as well.  Just gets more interesting doesn't it?   Hopefully we get a lot of observatories studying it now that the regular cycle is verified. I don't think, at this point, that would be possible, too many people looking and studying that star now to cover anything up.
Comment icon #314 Posted by bison on 22 May, 2017, 15:39
Study of this star is going on across the world. It seems unlikely that all the various political administrations would all react alike, and try to conceal the discovery of a distant extraterrestrial civilization. Even one polity not supporting such an embargo would be sufficient to let the 'secret' out. Even if there were a conspiracy of silence or denial, scientists being independent-minded professionals and often uncommonly idealistic, would find ways of telling what they knew. I think the world's governments, supposing they wanted to do such a thing, would find controlling scientists in th... [More]
Comment icon #315 Posted by keithisco on 22 May, 2017, 19:35
That is dependent on the occulting object's relative position between the observer and the observed.
Comment icon #316 Posted by bison on 22 May, 2017, 21:28
That's very true. I had reference to planet in orbit of the star. It would be so much closer to that star than to us that the largest sort of planet would dim it by one percent or less, probably substantially less. It would be very improbable that a much nearer, free-floating (rogue) planet, or a planet in another star system would happen to repeatedly cross the line-of-sight between  Boyajian's Star and Earth.   
Comment icon #317 Posted by Merc14 on 23 May, 2017, 14:39
Another article on the recent dimming which has apparently ended for now https://www.extremetech.com/extreme/249655-scientists-close-understanding-alien-megastructure-star

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