Alien Megastructures Don't Explain Tabby's Star

An artist's concept of an

An artist's concept of an"uneven ring of dust orbiting KIC8462852

Some conspiracy theorist, however, were quick to point out that what the reseachers were seeing is an "alien megastructure" built around its star to harness its energy.

The odd brightening and dimming behaviour of KIC 8462852, famously known as the Tabby's Star, buffled scientists for years.

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".

So, while varying opinions as to what is causing the peculiar dips have been proposed over the past few years, a team of astrophysicists has now published what it believes to be the most likely answer - and it is sad news for those hopeful of extraterrestrial life being the cause.

As the news spread, Boyajian took the unorthodox step of launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund new observations of the star, raising more than $100,000 from more than 1,700 online donors to reserve time to study KIC 8462852 with instruments operated by Las Cumbres Observatory.

"The current evidence suggests that the short-term and long-term dimming are caused by dust of different sizes", they write.

The objective of the study was to analyse the dips at all wavelengths because if they were all of near-equal measure, they would be caused by a physical structure, which includes the possibility of an alien megastructure. The star sporadically dims and brightens in the night sky.

The star is nicknamed Tabby's Star after Tabetha Boyajian, an astronomer at Louisiana State University who has led its study, and formally known as KIC 8462852 because the first truly detailed observations of it came from NASA's Kepler Space Telescope. An analysis of the colour signature of those dips showed that the blockage in front of Tabby's Star absorbed more blue light than red. Normally, planets can block starlight as they pass in front of the star. For example, a different research group found that Tabby's star had also dropped in brightness overall by about 20 percent from 1890 to 1989.

The mystery began in 2011, when citizen scientists with the Planet Hunters project were sorting through data from NASA's Kepler spacecraft, which spotted the signatures of more than 2,300 planets during its four years of primary observations. However, some scientists thought maybe, just maybe, we were seeing the infrastructure of an advanced alien civilization surrounding and orbiting the star. 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.

New monitoring of the star conducted in 2017 has now ruled out that idea, according to a new paper published today in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters. An orbiting planet wouldn't dim the star as much as it was dimming, and a planet would cause periodic dips each time it passed between the star and Earth.

"We're gathering so much data on a single target".

"I am so appreciative of all of the people who have contributed to this in the past year-the citizen scientists and professional astronomers", Boyajian said.

Boyajian said, "It's exciting".

"We don't really have a working model quite yet, so things are still up in the air in terms of how everything is put together", Boyajian said.

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