The SETI Institute just turned its telescope to that mysteriously blinking distant star 1,480 light years away, which last month led to speculation that alien megastructures are in its orbit. The conclusion: Science still can’t explain the phenomenon.
Neither SETI nor a team of astronomers are giving up the search for answers. The alien megastructures theory is still alive and well, even though SETI has come up empty-handed in its first eavesdropping effort.
What exactly is going on with this star?
It’s officially called KIC 8462852 and caught the attention of the world last month after demonstrating some very odd behavior. According to Popular Mechanics, the star dims up to 20 percent, which is a much larger shadow that could be cast by any planet.
So the speculation began. The theories currently in play are that it’s caused by cometary debris or that the star has a distorted shape. The most fascinating explanation — posed by astronomers Tabetha Boyajian, Jason Wright, and Andrew Siemion — was that the star’s light is being blocked by alien megastructures.
SETI was at least intrigued enough to twirl their Allen Telescope Array in the direction of the star and the supposed alien megastructures to listen for radio signals sent by intelligent life. Shostak thought it would be “prudent” to do so.
“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 behavior is due to nature, not aliens, it’s only prudent to check such things out.”
Alien megastructures are also referred to as a Dyson sphere, and theoretically includes solar panels that collect energy from a star (in this case the clumsily-named KIC 8462852) on an enormous scale, EarthSky noted. Other alien megastructures could be space habitats or an object meant to beam a long-lasting signal to other life forms.
SETI did the “prudent” thing a couple weeks ago and took a listen, searching out two types of transmissions, or signals, from the supposed aliens who allegedly built the intrusive megastructures.
SETI sought narrow-band transmissions, or signals found at one spot on the dial. This would make a good “hailing channel,” Shostak explained, because it concentrates the transmitter’s energy in one place. The second type of transmission scientists sought were broad transmissions, based on the belief that alien megastructures would need to be served by transport rockets, and these would be fueled by microwave radio beams. These, in turn, would produce a signal that the telescope could detect.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how friendly these potential aliens might be) SETI found nothing.
But, the hunt for alien megastructures is still on. SETI will keep listening, and the astronomers who believe extra-terrestrials are responsible for the blinking star want to use the Green Bank Telescope — the world’s largest movable radio telescope — to listen themselves. The telescope is already getting an upgrade thanks to some serious Silicon Valley support and will be used to find aliens and their megastructures, or whatever might be out there.
The possibility that there are alien megastructures out there large enough to block starlight is still in the cards, he writes.
“It’s still possible that the odd behavior of this star might indeed be due to large-scale public works projects by aliens. But given the results of this first search, I think the smart money should go elsewhere. Every time we’ve turned our telescopes to the heavens and found mysterious phenomena, there were folks who immediately assumed we had uncovered evidence of cosmic companions. But each time, the truth turned out to be less exotic: we had discovered some previously unknown natural phenomenon.”
In other cool space news, a CalTech astrophysicist believes he found evidence of a parallel universe, as the Inquisitr previously reported.
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