The odd star located in the Cygnus constellation known as Tabby’s Star — the one that could be host to an “alien megastructure” — has begun to dim again and a “call to action” has been sent out by the star’s namesake herself, astronomer Tabetha Boyajian. Both she and Jason Wright, a Penn State Associate Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics, were quick to give notice to astronomers around the world that the time to study the strange star KIC 8462852 is now as the star seems to be entering another dimming phase.
Star KIC 8462852 was detected in 2015 as presenting a peculiar dimming process, an event or action that somehow blocked up to 20 percent of the light being emitted from the distant star. As Popular Science explained, the amount of light being blocked was far too much to be an occlusion caused by the transit of an exoplanet. And since the dimming phenomenon was first detected by astronomer Tabetha Boyajian, there have been several hypotheses suggested — from swarms of comets to an artificial “alien megastructure” built by an advanced extraterrestrial civilization — as to what might be the cause of the bizarre effect.
But Jason Wright was first to sound the alarm that something was again occurring at Tabby’s Star — and referred to it as “dipping” — and astronomers needed to focus on the faraway stellar mass to gather data.
ALERT:@tsboyajian's star is dipping
This is not a drill.
Astro tweeps on telescopes in the next 48 hours: spectra please!
— Jason Wright (@Astro_Wright) May 19, 2017
Boyajian wasn’t too far behind, adding a “call to action” Twitter post with a retweet of Wright’s post.
CALL TO ACTION!! https://t.co/ll69iRowqi
— Tabetha Boyajian (@tsboyajian) May 19, 2017
The intent, of course, is for astronomers and scientists to direct as many detection instruments toward KIC 8462852 as possible so as to perhaps gather enough data to discover what might be producing the dimming, or “dipping,” effect around the star. According to Wright, the star had dimmed as much as two percent as of Friday (May 19) morning (per the Daily Mail).
Wright’s initial analysis was corroborated Saturday (May 20) by Fairborn Observatory in Arizona, which confirmed that Tabby’s Star had dimmed by three percent. To indicate just how unusual the dimming effect actually is, Popular Science offered the comparison of the planet Jupiter blocking the star, an action that would see the occlusion of only one percent of the star’s light, if that.
The most popular explanation for the star’s dimming has been the hypothesis that an “alien megastructure” has been constructed, or is being constructed, around Tabby’s Star. It has been posited that something on the order of a Dyson sphere, a construct built to surround a star so as to gather all available energy from the star as a resource, might be the answer to the strange dimming process.
But popular consensus is not science and scientists, although just as excited as the next individual to entertain the possibility of the existence of an alien civilization, have been hard-pressed to come up with an answer to the dimming of Tabby’s Star. Back in September, the Inquisitr reported that scientists Valeri Makarov, of the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C., and Alexey Goldin, of Teza Technologies in Chicago, revealed their idea that the dimming effect of KIC 8462852 is not an “alien megastructure” but the result of an occluding cloud of space junk that has accumulated between the star and the observers on Earth. The hypothesis of a swarm of comets inside the system of Tabby’s Star producing the dip in light emission was simply transplanted into the idea that there was a swarm of “interstellar comets” causing the effect.
The list of observatories that have turned their telescopes toward KIC 8462852 includes Swift, Keck, Fairborn, and Lick.
Although the event presents an opportunity for scientists to study the star as it appears to be actually dimming (which it has noticeably done at over an extended period of time), Wright admitted, “I don’t think we’re going to solve the puzzle this weekend.” However, the astronomer was hopeful that the collected data from the weekend’s observations could eventually lead to the solution.
[Featured Image by vrx/Shutterstock]