Could there be intelligent life in the star system KIC 8462852? A recent analysis of data collected by the Kepler space telescope has shown that this star, informally known as Tabby’s Star, evidences aperiodic dimming of 20 percent and more. While several natural explanations for this strong change in luminosity have been proposed, one possibility is that a technologically adept civilization has built megastructures in orbit around star, causing the dimming.
One example of a large-scale astroengineering project would be the construction of a so-called Dyson swarm of solar panels for large-scale energy collection. Other possible structures include artificial space habitats, or a planet-size or larger occulting object intended to provide a long-lasting signal to other galactic inhabitants.
In order to investigate the possibility of a deliberate cause of KIC 8462852’s unusual behavior, the SETI Institute has trained its Allen Telescope Array on this star for more than two weeks. The Array consists of 42 antennas, each 6 meters in size, and is located approximately 500 km north of San Francisco in the Cascade Mountains. ...
Radio SETI Observations of the Anomalous Star KIC 8462852 - G. R. Harp et al
<<The commercial spacecraft Nostromo is on a return trip to Earth with a seven-member crew in stasis. Detecting a mysterious transmission, possibly a distress signal, from a nearby planetoid, the ship's computer, MOTHER, awakens the crew. Following standard company policy for such situations, the Nostromo lands on the planetoid and Captain Dallas, Executive Officer Kane, and Navigator Lambert head out to investigate. They discover the signal is coming from a derelict alien spacecraft. Inside, they find the remains of a large alien creature whose ribcage appears to have exploded from the inside. On the Nostromo, Warrant Officer Ripley determines that the transmission is not a distress signal but a warning.>>
Was it a catastrophic collision in the star’s asteroid belt? A giant impact that disrupted a nearby planet? A dusty cloud of rock and debris? A family of comets breaking apart? Or was it alien megastructures built to harvest the star’s energy?
Just what caused the mysterious dimming of star KIC 8462852?
Massimo Marengo, an Iowa State University associate professor of physics and astronomy, wondered when he saw all the buzz about the mysterious star found by citizen scientists on the Planet Hunters website.
Those citizen scientists were highlighting measurements of star brightness recorded by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft. Tiny dips in a star’s brightness can indicate a planet is passing in front of the star. That’s how Kepler astronomers – and citizen scientists using the internet to help analyze the light curves of stars – are looking for planets.
But this star had deep dips in brightness – up to 22 percent. The star’s brightness also changed irregularly, sometimes for days and even months at a time. A search of the 150,000-plus stars in Kepler’s database found nothing like this.
So Marengo and two other astronomers decided to take a close look at the star using data taken with the Infrared Array Camera of NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. They report their findings in a paper recently published online by The Astrophysical Journal Letters. ...
The anomalous star KIC 8462852 has baffled astronomers with its erratic dimming, causing some to speculate that it’s orbited by a massive structure built by an extraterrestrial civilization. To help evaluate that possibility, scientists searched for brief laser pulses from the distant star, but found none, as reported in a paper submitted to The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
“The hypothesis of an alien megastructure around KIC 8462852 is rapidly crumbling apart,” said Douglas Vakoch, President of SETI International and an author of the paper. “We found no evidence of an advanced civilization beaming intentional laser signals toward Earth,” he explained.
The experiment was coordinated by SETI International, a new research and educational organization devoted to innovative approaches to astrobiology and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), including Active SETI, in which intentional signals are sent to other stars to evoke a reply.
On six nights between October 29 and November 28, 2015, scientists searched for pulses as short as a billionth of a second at the Boquete Optical SETI Observatory in Panama, using a 0.5 m Newtonian telescope. The observatory's relatively small telescope uses a unique detection method having enhanced sensitivity to pulsed signals. If any hypothetical extraterrestrials had beamed intentional laser pulses in the visible spectrum toward Earth, the Boquete observatory could have detected them so long as they exceeded the observatory’s minimum detectable limit. ...
Optical SETI Observations of the Anomalous Star KIC 8462852 - Marlin Schuetz et al
Sorry, E.T. lovers, but the results of a new study make it far less likely that KIC 8462852, popularly known as Tabby’s star, is the home of industrious aliens who are gradually enclosing it in a vast shell called a Dyson sphere.
Public interest in the star, which sits about 1,480 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus, began last fall when Yale astronomer Tabetha (Tabby) Boyajian and colleagues posted a paper on an astronomy preprint server reporting that “planet hunters” – a citizen science group formed to search data from the Kepler space telescope for evidence of exoplanets – had found unusual fluctuations in the light coming from the otherwise ordinary F-type star (slightly larger and hotter than the sun).
A statistical analysis of the accuracy of the digitized magnitudes of photometric plates on the
time scale of decades with an application to the century-long light curve of KIC 8462852 - Michael Hippke et al
I'm not surprised to hear that a likely natural explanation has been found for KIC 8462852. It would have been so utterly unlikely if the unique light variations of this star had been caused by something as incredible as a real Dyson sphere.
Then again, in view of what kind of alien life forms we have a reasonable chance of detecting, one might argue that the very simple, bacteria-like life forms and the incredibly advanced aliens are the ones we have the best chances of finding. The bacteria-like life forms are the ones that may change the composition of the atmosphere of their planets, and the incredibly advanced aliens are the ones that might build Dyson spheres and change the light output of their suns.
The so-called ‘most mysterious star in the galaxy’, also known as KIC 8462852, Tabby’s Star, the WTF (‘where’s the flux’) star and the ‘alien megastructure star’ thanks to the bizarre swarms of unknown objects transiting it, has become even stranger according to new analysis of old observations from the Kepler Space Telescope. Astronomers Ben Montet of the California Institute for Technology and Josh Simon of the Carnegie Institution looked back over the first four years of Kepler’s mission, during which it stared constantly at KIC 8462852 as well as 150,000 other stars while looking for exoplanet transits, to find that the mysterious star dimmed during that time at an unprecedented rate of 0.341 percent each year. Suffice to say, astronomers are at a loss to explain this dimming...
[...] earlier this year Louisiana State University astronomer Bradley Schaefer revealed that KIC 8462852 had been slowly dimming for at least a century at a rate of 0.165 magnitudes per century – notably lower than the rate of dimming derived by Kepler. He came to this conclusion after studying historical photographic plates of the star that had been digitised as part of the Digital Access to a Sky Century at Harvard, or DASCH, project. If Schaefer is correct then not only would the century-long dimming rule out the comet fragments model, it would also suggest that a second mechanism is at working dimming the star, besides the shorter-term transits analysed by Boyajian’s team...
“There seems to be three timescales at which events are occurring,” [Montet] tells Astronomy Now. “There are the short events lasting a few days that were originally discovered by Boyajian’s group. Then there’s a very long term dimming that lasts for at least three years and might last for a century, and then there’s an intermediate effect that lasts for at least six months. Each one is really weird.”...
A star known by the unassuming name of KIC 8462852 in the constellation Cygnus has been raising eyebrows both in and outside of the scientific community for the past year. In 2015 a team of astronomers announced that the star underwent a series of very brief, non-periodic dimming events while it was being monitored by NASA’s Kepler space telescope, and no one could quite figure out what caused them. A new study from Carnegie’s Josh Simon and Caltech’s Ben Montet has deepened the mystery. ...
The researchers analyzed further Kepler observations of the puzzling star and showed that in addition to its rapid unexplained brightness changes, the star also faded slowly and steadily during the four years it was watched by Kepler.
Speculation to explain KIC 8462852’s dips in brightness has ranged from an unusually large group of comets orbiting the star to an alien megastructure. In general, stars can appear to dim because a solid object like a planet or a cloud of dust and gas passes between it and the observer, eclipsing and effectively dimming its brightness for a time. But the erratic pattern of abrupt fading and re-brightening in KIC 8462852 is unlike that seen for any other star. ...
KIC 8462852 Faded Throughout the Kepler Mission - Benjamin T. Montet, Joshua D. Simon
Tabby’s star has provoked so much excitement over the past year, with speculation that it hosts a highly advanced civilization capable of building orbiting megastructures to capture the star’s energy, that UC Berkeley’s Breakthrough Listen project is devoting hours of time on the Green Bank radio telescope to see if it can detect any signals from intelligent extraterrestrials.
“The Breakthrough Listen program has the most powerful SETI equipment on the planet, and access to the largest telescopes on the planet,” said Andrew Siemion, director of the Berkeley SETI Research Center and co-director of Breakthrough Listen. “We can look at it with greater sensitivity and for a wider range of signal types than any other experiment in the world. “
Breakthrough Listen, which was created last year with $100 million in funding over 10 years from the Breakthrough Prize Foundation and its founder, internet investor Yuri Milner, won’t be the first to search for intelligent life around this star. ...
Know the quiet place within your heart and touch the rainbow of possibility; be
alive to the gentle breeze of communication, and please stop being such a jerk. — Garrison Keillor
In 2015, a star called KIC 8462852 caused quite a stir in and beyond the astronomy community due to a series of rapid, unexplained dimming events seen while it was being monitored by NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope. And the star has continued to foil scientists’ efforts to understand it ever since. ...
Speculation to account for KIC 8462852’s dips in brightness has ranged from it having swallowed a nearby planet to an unusually large group of comets orbiting the star to an alien megastructure.
In general, stars can appear to dim because a solid object like a planet or a cloud of dust and gas passes between it and the observer, eclipsing and effectively dimming its brightness for a time. But even before this evidence of two periods of increased brightness in the star’s past, the erratic dimming periods seen in KIC 8462852 were unlike anything astronomers had previously observed. ...
Where Is the Flux Going? The Long-Term Photometric Variability of Boyajian's Star - Joshua D. Simon et al
One of the most mysterious stellar objects may be revealing some of its secrets at last.
Called KIC 8462852, also known as Boyajian's Star, or Tabby's Star, the object has experienced unusual dips in brightness -- NASA's Kepler space telescope even observed dimming of up to 20 percent over a matter of days. In addition, the star has had much subtler but longer-term enigmatic dimming trends, with one continuing today. None of this behavior is expected for normal stars slightly more massive than the Sun. Speculations have included the idea that the star swallowed a planet that it is unstable, and a more imaginative theory involves a giant contraption or "megastructure" built by an advanced civilization, which could be harvesting energy from the star and causing its brightness to decrease.
A new study using NASA's Spitzer and Swift missions, as well as the Belgian AstroLAB IRIS observatory, suggests that the cause of the dimming over long periods is likely an uneven dust cloud moving around the star. This flies in the face of the "alien megastructure" idea and the other more exotic speculations.
The smoking gun: Researchers found less dimming in the infrared light from the star than in its ultraviolet light. Any object larger than dust particles would dim all wavelengths of light equally when passing in front of Tabby's Star. ...
Extinction and the Dimming of KIC 8462852 - Huan Y. A. Meng et al
Weird. I thought the dust theory got thrown out at a very early stage because the infrared measurements were exactly wrong for what one might expect for dust.
<<KIC 8462852 (also Tabby's Star or Boyajian's Star) is an F-type main-sequence star located in the constellation Cygnus approximately 1,280 light-years from Earth. Unusual light fluctuations of the star, including up to a 22% dimming in brightness, were discovered by citizen scientists as part of the Planet Hunters project, and, in September 2015, astronomers and citizen scientists associated with the project posted a preprint of an article describing the data and possible interpretations. A prominent hypothesis, based on a lack of observed infrared light, posits a swarm of cold, dusty comet fragments in a highly eccentric orbit. However, the notion that disturbed comets from such a cloud could exist in high enough numbers to obscure 22% of the star's observed luminosity has been doubted. Another hypothesis is that of a large number of small masses in "tight formation" orbiting the star. However, spectroscopic study of the system has found no evidence for coalescing material or hot close-in dust or circumstellar matter from an evaporating or exploding planet within a few astronomical units of the mature central star.>>
Epsilon Aurigae (ε Aur, ε Aurigae), also named Almaaz, is a star in the northern constellation of Auriga. It is an unusual eclipsing binary system comprising an F0 supergiant and a companion which is generally accepted to be a huge dark disk orbiting an unknown object, possibly a binary system of two small B-type stars. About every 27 years, Epsilon Aurigae's brightness drops from an apparent visual magnitude of +2.92 to +3.83. This dimming lasts 640–730 days. In addition to this eclipse, the system also has a low amplitude pulsation with a non-consistent period of around 66 days.
It would seem that Tabby's Star is not the only F-type star acting up by dimming due to dust.
Myself, the old cynic, never for a moment believed that the dimming of Tabby's star was due to an artificial alien mega-structure.
Wouldn't it have floored me if the mega-structure had actually been there.
Epsilon Aurigae (ε Aur, ε Aurigae), also named Almaaz, is a star in the northern constellation of Auriga. It is an unusual eclipsing binary system comprising an F0 supergiant and a companion which is generally accepted to be a huge dark disk orbiting an unknown object, possibly a binary system of two small B-type stars. About every 27 years, Epsilon Aurigae's brightness drops from an apparent visual magnitude of +2.92 to +3.83. This dimming lasts 640–730 days.
Amalthea wagging her tail
<<Capella is associated with the mythological she-goat Amalthea, who breast-fed the infant Zeus. It forms an asterism with the stars Epsilon Aurigae, Zeta Aurigae, and Eta Aurigae, the latter two of which are known as the Haedi (the Kids). The asterism containing the three goats had been a separate constellation; however, Ptolemy merged the Charioteer and the Goats in the 2nd-century Almagest. Before that, Capella was sometimes seen as its own constellation—by Pliny the Elder and Manilius—called Capra, Caper, or Hircus, all of which relate to its status as the "goat star". Zeta Aurigae and Eta Aurigae were first called the "Kids" by Cleostratus, an ancient Greek astronomer.>>
My first and only hypothesis regarding this star was an irregular cloud of dust. I specifically remember looking it up and wondering why it wasn't the leading hypothesis already, and it was because the light signature was just wrong. This really confuses me.
Just call me "geck" because "zilla" is like a last name.
Some 1,500 light-years from Earth, a mystery of stellar proportions is playing out. A singular star out there captured scientists’ and the public’s imagination in September 2015 with its strangely fluctuating brightness. Ever since then, the scientific community has been observing this enigmatic character and sifting methodically through the data in search of an answer. Certain explanations are eliminated, while other likely suspects come to the fore. Meanwhile, the world has the chance to watch, as the scientific process and the mystery continue to unfold.
The star under scrutiny is officially known as KIC 8462852, but was nicknamed “Tabby’s Star,” for its discoverer, Tabetha Boyajian, an assistant professor of astrophysics at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. It first became famous when data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope revealed that sudden and significant dips in its brightness had occurred in 2011 and 2013. The star’s light dimmed by as much as a whopping 22 percent for days at a time. No other star out of more than 200,000 that Kepler measured during its original, four-year mission behaves in exactly this way. ...
The most recent findings, based on the new data from Spitzer and Swift, point the finger at an uneven dust cloud orbiting the star to explain the long, slow dimming of the star, which may prove related to the short dips in brightness. As for the latter, one study has suggested that a star orbited by a ringed planet and clusters of asteroids could exhibit the same strange dimming behavior. Yet another has considered a planet being pulled apart and swallowed up by the star. These relative newcomers to the mystery have followed other explanations previously put on trial by scientists for the strange behavior of Boyajian’s star. Here are a few of the “accused,” and the evidence that exonerated them.
Could it be a swarm of comets? ...
What about an object eclipsing the star? ...
Is the star just burning out? ...
Was there simply an instrument glitch? ...
... Image Credits: NASA/Ames Research Center/Daniel Rutter
Know the quiet place within your heart and touch the rainbow of possibility; be
alive to the gentle breeze of communication, and please stop being such a jerk. — Garrison Keillor
A team of more than 100 researchers, led by LSU Department of Physics & Astronomy Assistant Professor Tabetha Boyajian, is one step closer to solving the mystery behind the “most mysterious star in the universe.” KIC 8462852, or “Tabby’s Star,” nicknamed after Boyajian, is otherwise an average star. It is about 50 percent bigger and 1,000 degrees hotter than the Sun. It is more than 1,000 light years away. However, it has been inexplicably dimming and brightening sporadically like no other. Several theories abound to explain the star’s unusual light patterns including an alien megastructure orbiting the star.
The mystery of Tabby’s Star is so compelling that more than 1,700 people donated over $100,000 through a Kickstarter campaign in support of dedicated ground-based telescope time to observe and gather more data on the star through a network of telescopes around the world. As a result, a new body of data collected by Boyajian and colleagues in partnership with the Las Cumbres Observatory is now available in a new paper in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. ...
The scientists closely observed the star through the Las Cumbres Observatory from March 2016 to December 2017. Beginning in May 2017 there were four distinct episodes when the star’s light dipped. Supporters from the crowdfunding campaign nominated and voted to name these episodes. The first two dips were named Elsie and Celeste. The last two were named after ancient lost cities — Scotland’s Scara Brae and Cambodia’s Angkor. The authors write that in many ways what is happening with the star is like these lost cities. ...