Note: you may be interested in this update on Tabby’s Star and the Alien Megastructure.
The story of that alien megastructure that may exist around a distant star, blocking its light for odd periods of time—well, things just got weirder.
A Dyson Sphere Gathering Energy from a
Star—Is This What Surrounds Tabby’s Star?
Scientists have been puzzling over what could be causing that distant star to dim 20% or more at a time, something that stars just don’t do. Stars dim their light sometimes, sure, but only a little. Not 20% or even more.
The Story So Far: Comets or an Alien Race?
There have been two proposals so far: either it’s maybe a swarm of comets (something that has been dismissed as highly unlikely), or … maybe it’s aliens. Specifically, maybe aliens built a gigantic megastructure around the star, and that’s what’s responsible for the dimming of star KIC 8462852 (also known as “Tabby’s Star” after astronomer Tabetha Boyajian who noticed the phenomenon). Some scientists went as far as to speculate that the star may be encompassed by a Dyson Sphere, a hypothetical energy-gathering structure first proposed by physicist Freeman Dyson. A Dyson Sphere that was constructed by an alien race.
An Astonishing Discovery
The Kepler Space Telescope that was used to discovery the weird dimming effect of KIC 8462852 only has a few years of historical data about Tabby’s Star. But now, astronomer Bradley Schaefer from Louisiana State University has examined photographic plates of the sky that go back for decades, and made an astounding discovery: over the last century, the star’s light output has diminished by 19%—which is something stars are not known to do, ever. Schaefer called it “completely unprecedented for any F-type main sequence star.”
Astronomer Tabetha Boyajian noted that Schaefer’s revelation changes the balance of things. Previously, the comet hypothesis was being said to “debunk” the idea that the dimming was the product of an alien race. But now, says Tabetha Boyajian, that’s out the window. “This presents some trouble for the comet hypothesis,” she told the respected scientific journal New Scientist. “We need more data through continuous monitoring to figure out what is going on.”