Saturday, August 6, 2016

Alien mega-structure mystery deepens Dyson sphere star found to be dimming

One of the most unusual stars in our galaxy, KIC 8462852, has been the subject of an immense amount of interest in the last few months. Interest in the star, which is 1,480 light-years away, began last October when Yale scientists found unusual fluctuations in its light. Now a new study has claimed the entire star has also been dimming in a dramatic way.


dyson megastructure space
Dyson Megasphere

Caltech astronomer Ben Montet and Joshua Simon of the Carnegie Institute measured the light from the star that Kepler recorded during its four-year mission. Shown' an artist's impression of a Dyson sphere.


In the new study, which is not yet peer-reviewed, Caltech astronomer Ben Montet and Joshua Simon of the Carnegie Institute measured the light from the star that Kepler recorded during its four-year mission. For the first few years,it dimmed at about 0.34 percent per year, they found. However, then its light level dropped dramatically by about 2.5 percent in 200 days - before it returned to the original slow fade rate. The astronomers looked at 500 other stars in the vicinity, and saw nothing else like it.

Some theories have suggested the dips in light are caused by an alien megastructure. But the mystery of what is causing the light flickers might be soon solved, now that a fundraising campaign to investigate the star has reached its target. The Kickstarter campaign, started on 18 May this year by Yale University researcher Dr Tabetha Boyajian, who first spotted the signals, has now reached its $100,000 (£68,352) goal. The project is hoping to investigate 'the most mysterious star in the galaxy' according to the Kickstarter page.


space megastructure dysons
Dyson Megasphere lights

A series of bizarre readings from a star called KIC 8462852 is baffling scientists. Some have speculated it may be an alien 'dyson sphere' megastructure. A study out last month claims that the signals were in fact caused by group of breakup of 30 massive Halley-like comets which blocked the starlight from view The Kepler mission monitored the star for four years, looking at two unusual incidents, in 2011 and 2013, when the star's light dimmed in dramatic, never-before-seen ways. When a planet orbits a star, the star's brightness usually reduces by around one per cent. But KIC 8462852 - nicknamed Tabby's star - has had a reduction of around to 22 per cent, which suggests something huge may be moving past it, according to a study by Louisiana State University (LSU). In some cases, the flux dropped down to below the 20 per cent level and lasted anywhere between five and 80 days at a time.

artists rendition dyson megasphere
Beautiful animation

Interest in the star, which is 1,480 light-years away, began last October when Yale scientists found unusual fluctuations in its light - with some suggesting the dips in light are caused by an alien megastructure. One theory that has got traction says the dips are caused by an alien megastructure, similar to a Dyson sphere (stock image) The most remarkable of these fluctuations consisted of dozens of uneven, unnatural-looking dips that appeared over a 100-day period indicating that a large number of irregularly shaped objects had passed across the face of the star and temporarily blocked some of the light coming from it. 'We'd never seen anything like this star,' said Dr Boyajian, who first spotted the signals. 'It was really weird. We thought it might be bad data or movement on the spacecraft, but everything checked out.' Scientists have been speculating on what could be causing such irregular dips since the paper was published. 'It's our first crowdfunding campaign and we are a small operation, so we just ask for your patience as we work out the logistics on what happens next,' Dr Boyajian said. The group is using the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope network (LCOGT) - a unique global network of telescopes operated by a network of scientists. 'We are currently monitoring the star with the LCOGT, and we are working with their staff to set up a custom data pipeline to streamline the data reduction and analysis,' Dr Boyajian added. One theory that has got traction says the dips are caused by an alien megastructure, similar to the Dyson sphere first proposed by theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson in 1960.

dyson light graph
Alien Planet light information
RULING OUT AN ALIEN STRUCTURE In order to explore the idea that such a structure could have been built by intelligent alien life, the Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute, Seti, trained its Allen Telescope Array on the star for more than two weeks. Experts looked for two types of radio signal: narrow-band signals generated as a 'hailing signal' for alien societies wanting to announce their presence, and broad-band signals. These signals would be produced by 'beamed propulsion'. Seti said that if large scale alien engineering projects really are underway, the array would pick up signals made by intense microwave beams that could be used to power spacecraft. Scientists analysing the data found no clear evidence for either type of signal. They believe this rules out the presence of omnidirectional transmitters - large antenna - of approximately 100 times today's total terrestrial energy usage in the case of the narrow-band signals, and ten million times that usage for broad band emissions. So the presence of a Dyson sphere is unlikely.

dyson animation with lights
Cool Image


This theory suggests that a swarm of satellites or solar panels surrounding a star, known as a Dyson swarm, could harness the power of the star and this swam could be could be an enclosed shell, or spacecraft. But other possible structures include artificial space habitats, or a planet-sized occulting object intended to provide a long-lasting signal to other galactic inhabitants. A study using data from Nasa's Spitzer Space Telescope in November suggested the changes in light may be caused by a swarm of comets. A study out last month claims the signals were in fact caused by the breakup of 30 massive Halley-like comets which blocked the starlight from view. Astronomers studied the star using the Submillimeter Array and the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope, on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. They wanted to track down dust associated with a possible planetary collision, according a report in Discovery, but they found none. The result is consistent with the break up of huge comets that would block the starlight from sight - although how such a huge amount of comets would disintegrate is unknown. The latest results follow a study earlier this month by Vanderbilt University which found the observations of KIC 8462852 were tainted by the inconsistent use of telescopes on Earth. It said the the presence of a Dyson sphere is unlikely.


As seen with telescope

Institute astronomer Seth Shostak said: 'The history of astronomy tells us that every time we thought we had found a phenomenon due to the activities of extraterrestrials, we were wrong. 'But although it's quite likely that this star's strange behaviour is due to nature, not aliens, it's only prudent to check such things out.' Their observations will continue, but so far no evidence of deliberately produced radio signals has been found in the direction of KIC 8462852. While the scientists have all but ruled out an intelligent alien society and comets, the truth behind KIC 8462852 continues to elude them. Now Dr Boyajian and her team hope to unravel the mystery. 'We will keep you all in the loop as things progress, and will soon send out surveys to gather information for reward fulfillment,' she said.