A Peculiar Star Is Doing Peculiar Things, Again

By John Wenz | May 19, 2017 2:29 pm
KIC_8462852_in_IR_and_UV

Infrared: IPAC/NASA Ultraviolet: STScI (NASA)

There’s a star 1,300 light years away that has exhibited some of the strangest behavior ever seen: something dims 20 percent of its light, something that is beyond the size of a planet. It’s called KIC 8462852, but most people shorthand it Tabby’s Star, or Boyajian’s Star for its discoverer, Tabitha Boyajian.

Here’s the thing, though. Absolutely nobody knows why it’s dimming that much. It could be a massive fleet of comets or the debris of a planet. But it’s not giving off much infrared excess, which is a sort of “heat glow” from reflected starlight. And now, it seems to be dimming again, either helping or complicating the search for a solution.

Boyajian and co-investigator Jason Wright first put out the alert, hoping to garner observations from telescopes worldwide. They’re hoping at least one of telescope can grab spectra from the star to see what is causing the dimming.

So far the dimming is at 2-3 percent, meaning the transit of … something is just starting. Tabby’s Star has a dedicated telescope waiting to find such an event, so the big observation period could yield further clues to what’s occurring.

Ok, it’s time we tell you: some people think it’s aliens. The hypothesis, put forth by Wright, states that in the absence of a good hypothesis, all avenues must be explored, and that includes giant Dyson Swarm machines harnessing the power of the star. Gathering the spectra could help rule that out or bolster the case for that “all other avenues exhausted” scenario.

Here’s the thing, too: you can get in on the action. Amateur astronomers use smaller scopes to track the star, which is bigger and older than the Sun. It’s at around 12th magnitude in the direction of Cygnus. So get out there tonight and hunt for some aliens.

 

This article originally appeared in Astronomy.com

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
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  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

    Tabby’s Star is also the “WTF” star – “where’s the flux”?

    Clearly the answer is dark matter space weevils playing on neutrino see-saws, repeatedly losing the information to find their playground. Or perhaps it is some clustering in the Oort cloud, or slithering spacetime domain walls, or it’s Mjölnir’s forge (re Skáldskaparmál).

    • Nathan Cassel

      I don’t know if Thor has ordered a new 🔨. Maybe it’s the fenris wolf getting hungry and devouring the 🌟. Most likely it is some mundane explaination like perhaps a rogue planet or a thick cloud of gaseous debris and dust orbiting. But if the chance exist of find extra solar life we should do our best to find it. Who knows we could find svartalfhiem.

      • dinah.rucker@mail.ru

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      • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

        Absence of a concomitant IR signature rules out dust. Huge aperiodic dips rule out planets. Adjacent stars are not affected, so it must be local to Tabby’s star, the most interesting star in the galaxy,

        “I don’t often have anomalous dips in my radiant flux, but when I do..WTF!” All the fun is in the footnotes.

        • Nathan Cassel

          Thanks for the info it is always my hope to gain a better understanding of the universe I live in.

  • John C

    This ought to be very interesting.

    • Achieving Apathy

      Your interpretation of odds and statistics is curious — I wouldn’t say that odds of one in a trillion are heavily in our favor. If there is life in the cosmos, the inverse would be true. We are far far more likely to never be the wiser.

      • John C

        Trillions of stars, scattered across the cosmos, at various light year and thus time distances from us. That should give us a pretty good sample across the physical and time expanse of the universe since the beginning. Even taking into consideration our limited ability to scan them for prospects, IF there is anything there, the vast sheer number of stars substantially multiplies our odds of finding something.

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