Alien megastructure theory just suffered another major blow

Mindy Sparks
January 12, 2018

In the ensuing years, its fluctuations of light caused some ripples of excitement in the scientific community, since some theorized that the odd patterns could be caused by a rotating alien megastructure conceived as something along the lines of a hypothetical Dyson's Sphere, a massive contraption that could capture the star's energy.

Artist's concept of a hypothetical uneven ring of dust causing the mysterious dimming of the star KIC 8462852, also known as Boyajian's Star or Tabby's Star.

For the last two years, astronomers all over the world have been eagerly observing what is hailed as "the most mysterious star in the Universe", a stellar object that wildly fluctuates in brightness with no discernible pattern - and now they may finally have an answer for its weird behavior.

Davenport, who did separate research on Tabby's Star in late 2017 and was among those who Boyajian notified, said his contribution was mostly alerting Morris, whose expertise in observational astronomy made him "the ideal person for doing the follow-up".

"Dust is most likely the reason why the star's light appears to dim and brighten".

Over 1,700 people donated $107,421 to a Kickstarter campaign Boyajian started in 2016 to fund dedicated time on ground-based telescopes to observe KIC 8462852, or "Tabby's Star", nicknamed after Boyajian.

The scientists closely observed the star via the global network of Las Cumbres Observatory from March 2016 to December 2017. So definitely not an alien-made megastructure sipping energy from the star.

It just wasn't behaving like any other star in the sky - and the unusual dimming events were only part of the puzzle.

Instead, the dust filters different colours of light differently; put simply, it's more like looking at starlight through a gossamer fabric than a rigid framework of Quadanium steel. The dips in the weird star's light are nearly definitely caused by a ring of dust, not a huge opaque object between us and the star. The star has intrigued astronomers with its irregular, unexplained dips in light of up to about 22 percent. The star itself was identified from Kepler data via the citizen science project Planet Hunters, which is still active.

"This latest research rules out alien megastructures, but it raises the probability of other phenomena being behind the dimming", study co-author Jason Wright, an astronomer at Pennsylvania State University, said in the same statement. And ideally, Ellis is hoping to use an infrared instrument on a space-based telescope to scan Tabby's Star during a dimming event to get a better sense of the size of the dust particles and their location around the star.

The new analysis of KIC 8462852 showing these results is to be published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

"If it wasn't for people with an unbiased look on our universe, this unusual star would have been overlooked", she said, adding. This strongly suggests that it's some kind of huge dust cloud that keeps passing in front of the star, and not a planet or alien structure.

"The data that we have it shows that it has to be something that is semi-opaque; it's not completely opaque and you'd expect a Dyson's Sphere to be completely opaque and block the light out equally at all wavelengths", Boyajian said.

It makes them more interesting to professional astronomers, probably. "We can also say that these clouds are mostly transparent ('optically thin' in astrophysics parlance)".

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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