Alien Megastructure Star Is Acting Weird Again

Posted: May 22 2017, 10:04am CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

 
Alien Megastructure Star is Acting Weird Again
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Researchers have discovered an unusual dimming in the star system KIC 8462852

In 2015, astronomers shook the world when they reported how a star in Constellation Cygnus is behaving oddly. The star, named KIC 8462852, exhibits strange momentarily dips in brightness and no one knows what exactly causes those flickers. The discovery, however, led to a flurry of speculations from swarms of comets and debris disc to alien civilization.

Now, astronomers have found that the star is again acting weirdly. On Friday, 19 May, KIC 8462852 displayed fluctuations of light which prompted scientists around the world to point their telescopes toward the star and observe its behavior.

“At about 4 a.m. this morning I got a phone call … that Fairborn (Observatory) in Arizona had confirmed that the star was 3 percent dimmer than it normally is,” said Jason Wright, an associate professor of astronomy at Pennsylvania State University.

“That is enough that we are absolutely confident that this is no statistical fluke. We've now got it confirmed at multiple observatories, I think.”

KIC 8462852, also known as Tabby’s Star was originally discovered in 2009. It lies about 1,500 light-years away from Earth. While it was being monitored by NASA's Kepler space telescope in October 2015, astronomers noticed that the star underwent a series of very brief, random dimming events, which is unique and inexplicable.

In general, a star will dip in brightness as a solid object like a planet or a cloud of dust and gas passes between it. But the erratic pattern of sudden fading and brightening in KIC 8462852 is unlike anything seen on other star. The light coming from the star sometimes drops by as much as 20% in brightness, which is not generally associated with F-type main sequence star. It indicates that something bigger and irregular may be orbiting around the star. But astronomers are unable to detect it so far.

“We had all the data we could and to learn anything more we needed to catch it in action again." Louisiana State University astronomer Tabetha Boyajian who reported the space anomaly of the dimming star around two years ago told The Verge.

“The problem, though, is that Tabby’s star is unpredictable. The fluctuations aren’t exactly repetitive and don’t seem to follow any known pattern – making it hard to know when the strange star will be strange again.”

It is still a big challenge to come up with a logical explanation for a star showing erratic behavior but recent observations can provide important clues to solving the mystery of KIC 8462852.

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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