A star observed by the Kepler telescope has displayed a unique light phenomenon that is hard to explain. The star KIC 8462852 is eclipsed approximately every eight-hundredth day.
When we are looking for planets around distant stars measuring a decrease in brightness this usually amounts to about 1 percent. But, in this case, the measured decrease in brightness amounts to an astonishing 22 percent, and some astronomers who hunt for extraterrestrial intelligent life advocates for a different explanation.
It was users of the online astronomy crowdsourcing interface Planet Hunters who discovered this particular light pattern between the Cygnus and Lyra constellations. They had been analyzing data collected by the space telescope Kepler, which use Transit Photometry (Transit Method) to detect planets around distant stars.
Surely, aliens should always be the last possible explanation after having ruled out all other natural phenomena. But some astronomers argue that high-tech civilizations probably harness the vast amounts of energy a star radiates and this could be a construction doing just that.
Jason Wright is an astronomer who studies exoplanets and astrobiology and he suspects it may be a Dyson Sphere, an alien-built mega structure consisting of solar panels placed in orbit around a star.
Other astronomers argue that the phenomena can be explained by natural means. Perhaps a family of comets passed the star at just the right distance to become locked into orbit around it.
Whether the dips in light can be explained by extraterrestrial intelligence or comets, something unique is going on within this planetary system and its star called KIC 8462852, 1,500 light years from Earth.
The planetary system will probably be watched intensely in the future. And the idea is for SETI to listen carefully for signals with origins in this system. Using the Very Large Array (VLA) to deduce whether any radio signals that indicates proof of an alien civilization.
We will probably discover what’s really going on within the near future. It will probably be a really fascinating explanation, alien or not.
Planet Hunters X. KIC 8462852 – Where’s the Flux?
Planet Hunters crowdsourcing program
Freeman Dyson: Let’s look for life in the outer solar system