One of the burning mysteries in #Astronomy concerns a star called KIC 8462852, or sometimes “Tabby’s Star” after astronomer Tabetha S. Boyajian who made the discovery, an F-type main sequence sun about 1,480 light years from Earth. For the past year or so scientists have been puzzling over strange light fluctuations that have been detected by the Kepler #Space telescope. The Kepler has been used to study dips in light from other stars to detect planets. However, the drops in brightness coming from Tabby’s star has scientists perplexed. Now a new revelation has deepened the mystery.
KIC 8462852 first entered public consciousness when a paper describing the unusual fluctuations detected by the Kepler space telescope suggested that one explanation might be that an alien megastructure, a Dyson sphere or a swarm of solar collectors, existed around the star. Scientists usually shy away from such science fiction explanations and subsequently settled upon a more natural phenomenon, a swarm of comets, to explain what was being detected.
The sudden twist that deepened the mystery occurred, as Discovery Magazine’s Ian O’Neil reported, when Bradley Schaefer from Louisiana State University decided to look into the historical record from observations of KIC 8462852 going back a century. He discovered that the star’s brightness has steadily decreased by 20 percent. Other scientists went back to the Kepler data and found that the decrease was 3.5 percent in just four years.
Scientists are still struggling to find a natural explanation. One idea is that some planetary collision has caused a debris cloud that is gradually expanding and thus causing the steady decrease in brightness coming from Tabby’s Star. But for that theory to work, the cloud has to be at an “impossibly” far distance from the star.
Those facts lead scientists to wonder if some strange, new phenomenon of solar physics is causing the steady decrease in brightness. Or, maybe, we are watching the construction of an alien infrastructure in real time, gradually blocking out the light coming from KIC 8462852. A Dyson sphere would eventually enclose the star, providing unimaginable vast living space for an alien civilization and enough surface area to collect its light to convert to power. Either explanation would shake up our understanding of science, though the alien explanation would constitute the greatest scientific discovery in history. #aliens