Tabby's Star: This Famous, Mysterious Alien Megastructure Star Is Dimming Again

Posted May 25, 2017

Others have posited it could be a comet swarm or something else less fantastical.

All of that might be about to change.

The team that made this discovery, led by Yale University astronomer Tabetha Boyajian-the star's namesake-suggested a variety of explanations for its unusual behavior, including that the star itself was variable, that it was surrounded by clouds of dust or dusty comets, or that planets around it had collided or were still forming. Astronomers haven't observed this behavior on any other star before, so naturally it brings about many interesting theories.

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KIC 8462852 was first noticed to be dipping in brightness at seemingly random intervals between 2011 and 2013 by NASA's Kepler telescope. The team is working to gain observing time on at least three other large telescopes on the US, according to Wright. The scientists are scheduling professional-grade telescope observations in weeks or months.

If this were any other star, getting even one telescope at such short notice would be almost impossible.

It's been suggested Tabby's Star could be home to a Dyson sphere.

The most important thing for these telescopes to capture is the spectrum of Tabby's star.

The team is particularly interested in looking at the star in various wavelengths. For instance, a star containing only hydrogen will be a different color and have a different spectrum than a star burning both hydrogen and helium. The concept of such structures was popularized by Freeman Dyson, a physicist, in 1960, who argued that advanced civilizations with the ability to build such megastructures around stars would need them to fill their energy needs and, consequently, long-term survival. If scientists see more blue light blocked than red light, for instance, that could mean the dimming is caused by lots of dust. As Grush reports, if the cause is a comet storm, then the comets will orbit very close to the star, heating them up enough to show up in infrared images.

Another technically possible explanation that has been banded about - and gained much attention in the media - is the idea that an alien megastructure has been responsible for blocking the star's light. Now, the star has been spotted performing the same dimming trick as it has in the past, and scientists are throwing out some extremely wild theories.

Researchers hope to gain time on three other big telescopes in the United States, as well as on the Green Bank radio telescope in West Virginia in their quest to unravel the mystery. On Friday, when it dipped further, he put the call out to the astronomy community.

Now the star is blinking again and astronomers have trained their telescopes on it in the hope of finally cracking the mystery.