A fantastic possibility was reported by the Kepler space telescope:
Tabby’s Star’s transit signal, otherwise known as a ‘light-curve’, stopped astronomers in their tracks. Something passed in front of it, dimming its starlight a whopping 20 percent and other jumbled transit signals revealed that something wasn’t quite right with this particular star. Penn State University astronomer Jason Wright speculated that the signal could be indicative of an ‘alien megastructure’ that’s in the process of being built.”
An alternative explanation – it’s a huge swarm of comets – had me discounting the possibility. But now Tabby’s Star (KIC 8462852) is back in the news. At the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii, astronomers find the comet hypothesis doesn’t explain everything they see.
So, is it possible a structure like the one found in the classic scifi story Ringworld is under construction?
Fortunately, astronomers have preserved their photographic plates of the sky for a long time. Another researcher from Louisiana State University studied plates going back a hundred years.
Sure enough, yes, the star is a bit of an oddball and has shown a long-term decreasing trend in brightness! Since the 19th Century, its brightness has decreased steadily by nearly 20 percent.”
Astronomers from Caltech and the Carnegie Institute, looking at data from the Kepler space telescope,
Detect transient dips in brightness of up to 20 percent, there also seems to be a very definite downward trend in brightness throughout our observational history of the star…there’s no other star that shows such dramatic behavior.”
I love to watch scientists in action here. Long dead astronomers still collaborate with those today through their stored and shared photographs. From Hawaii to Louisiana and points between, people jump in with ideas they test and publish for scrutiny.
As of now, there’s no satisfactory answer to the mystery of Tabby’s Star. Astronomers are still searching and that’s wonderful.
Thanks to livescience.com for following this story and for the quotes above.
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