That alien megastructure star? Eh, it's probably just some cosmic dust

Alien megastructures not causing'Tabby's Star weirdness says new research

KIC 8462852 - otherwise known as Tabby's star - is situated around 1,000 light years from Earth and burns 1,000 degrees hotter than our Sun, which, in itself, is fairly unremarkable.

Since May 2017, four incidents of Tabby's star dimming were noted by researchers.

It's been called the "most mysterious star in the universe", bigger than the sun and yet brightening and dimming in an odd way that suggested to some an alien megastructure might be circling it.

About 1,700 people donated more than $100,000 to the program in order to gather more data about Tabby's Star and figure out exactly what its deal is, according to the statement. The funding allowed her and her team to secure time on the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network, a collection of telescopes around the world that conduct nightly scans of the sky.

"We were hoping that once we finally caught a dip happening in real time we could see if the dips were the same depth at all wavelengths", Jason Wright, an assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State University, said in a news release.

"If there were opaque objects blocking our view of the light, the star should get equally dim at all wavelengths, "he wrote at his blog".

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. First studied by professional astronomers in 2015, researchers said that they hadn't seen any star behaving the same way as KIC 8462852, but could not rule out alien activity as the cause of the weird behaviour. The data, collected between 2015 and 2017 and showing four dips in brightness of 1-2.5 percent, is available in a paper in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. Supporters from the crowdfunding campaign nominated and voted to name these episodes. The last two were named after ancient lost cities - Scotland's Scara Brae and Cambodia's Angkor. Dips lasted anywhere from five to 80 days (exoplanet dips usually last a few hours) and robbed the star of as much as a fifth of its brightness (compared to 1 percent by a large exoplanet). Questions remain, and Boyajian and her team are anxious to learn more, but we can at least say for certain: huge alien infrastructure is not at play here. Instead, they appeared to be more intense and nearly entirely random.

The paper's authors described the dips as "mysterious", despite them being caused by something considered normal in the cosmos.

The researchers say that the manner in which the star is being studied indicates that we are entering a new era of astronomy. As planets pass between their stars and Earth, they cause brief and predictable blips in their stars' light. The online citizen science group Planet Hunters was established so that volunteers could help to classify light curves from the Kepler mission and to search for such planets. Astronomer Tabetha Boyajian and her team from Louisiana State University were combing through Kepler's data and found that the spacecraft had observed this star and recorded its unusual behavior. "Such an excess is observed in young stars with large amounts of coalescing gas and dust".

Now there are more answers to be found.

The whole megastructure drama was born a couple years ago when a researcher offered that explanation along with other more pedestrian (and natural) ideas for why the star was dimming and brightening.



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