Aliens at Work: Dyson Sphere or Death Star?

Note: you may be interested in this update on the star and its Alien Megastructure.

Built by Aliens

Back in early October of 2015, astronomers announced the discovery of KIC 8462852, a weird star in the Kepler database that flickers oddly. This anomalous astral body loses as much as 20% of its brightness as it sporadically dims. Simple explanations haven’t been able to tackle this strange phenomenon, so enter the crazy theories. Our favorite: the star is being dimmed by a giant megastructure like a Dyson Sphere built by aliens.

A Dyson sphere is a hypothetical megastructure that completely encompasses a star and captures most or all of its power output. Technology like this is clearly out of the reach of humanity, but might be absolutely commonplace for an advanced civilization of aliens.

Megastructure Built by Aliens
Megastructure Built by Aliens. Courtesy Futselaar/SETI.

The concept was first described by Olaf Stapledon in his science fiction novel, Star Maker (1937), and later popularized by Freeman Dyson in his 1960 paper, “Search for Artificial Stellar Sources of Infrared Radiation”. Dyson speculated that such structures would become a necessity when alien civilizations reached a certain level of technological advancement, and their energy needs became so great that a project of this magnitude would be necessary for the aliens’ long-term survival.

Everyone from Neil deGrasse Tyson on the late night TV circuit to the diligent team at SETI have weighed in on the possibility of the star being surrounded by structure made by aliens. The SETI team even went so far as to point their arrays at KIC 8462852’s whereabouts to see if they could catch a radio signal or laser pulse from our newfound alien buddies up there. Unfortunately, all they got was radio silence.

Naysayers have posited that the distant star is probably being occluded by a swarm of comets, which is decidedly less sexy (and less terrifying). We’ll enjoy the show from our cozy observatories 1480 light years away here on Earth.

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