When something as massive as a star vanishes from the depths of space, it is something to note. But it is another thing to suggest the vanishing might have been the work of aliens. Swedish scientists, though, have done just that, finding that a star has pulled a vanishing act in the past five decades, and since they have no idea why, they admit they cannot rule out the possibility that aliens with advanced and sophisticated technology could have been a causative agent.
Science Alert reported on July 10 that researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden, in a study that involved approximately 290,000 stars, found through extensive perusal of 50 years of astronomical records, one of the stars had disappeared. The “vanishing” star could have disappeared via natural means (in the stellar sense, of course), but the team felt that they had to include the possibility of alien intervention in the mix simply due to the fact that they could not, as yet, realistically rule out such an intervention.
Still, finding a missing star was the goal, as it turns out. So was blaming it all on an advanced alien civilization. In a paper published at arrive.org, the Swedish scientists explained the following.
“We propose to search for physically impossible effects caused by highly advanced technology, by carrying out a search for disappearing galaxies and Milky Way stars.”
How exactly would an alien civilization cause a vanishing star? The foremost theory revolves around the work of famed theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson, who postulated that once a civilization — alien or otherwise — reaches a certain point of expansion, to assuage its energy needs, it will likely harness the energy of its nearest (or parent) star. This, he theorized, could be most effectively performed by arranging a sphere (called a “Dyson sphere”) of energy collectors around said star. Such a sphere, in order to capture all the available energy, would effectively block out evidence of the star’s existence.
The Swedish scientists also put forth the idea that the vanishing star may have been an extremely luminous object known as a quasar. Such entities have been found to go dark in a matter of hundreds of days, according to New Scientist.
So how did the researchers find the vanishing star? The team took data from the USNO-B1.0 Catalog and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey for their star search. Both data sets are among the largest and most comprehensive universe maps compiled to date. By comparing the records of the positions of stars — all 290,000 of them — they searched for any unexplainable discrepancies that occurred over a 50-year period. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on one’s view) they only found one: A star had gone missing.
The team took into account, of course, potential technical errors and the natural movements of objects in their courses in the universe. And they admit that they could very well have overlooked something in the data, noting that there was more work to be done in establishing that they had indeed found a vanishing star.
The latest research isn’t the first time aliens and/or the potential for an advanced technological civilization to alter what we here on Earth perceive has been posited with regard to strange happenings with a star. In fact, when the star KIC 8462852 (also referred to as “Tabby’s Star”) was found to grow dim on occasion, sometimes as much as 20 percent, one of the possible reasons tossed out was that the dimming could be caused by aliens and the partial completion of a Dyson sphere — dubbed an “alien megastructure” — around the star.
Of course, there were other possibilities forwarded. One was that a swarm of comets was causing the dimming.
As Popular Science recently reported, the mystery around KIC 8462852 deepened when astronomer Bradley Schaefer discovered that the star had been losing 16 percent of its brightness each century. Given this, Schaefer said that a swarm of comets causing the dimming was unlikely.
But now Schaefer’s findings have also been called into question by a study out of Vanderbilt University. After studying the same astronomical records (from Harvard), the new research found no change in brightness from 1962 to 1990. This, of course, has now ignited a scientific debate on the analysis of the data as well as what might be causing the very real overall dimming of the star.
Regardless of the analysis, one thing remains clear: It is unknown what might be causing the partial occlusion of star KIC 8462852. And like the recently discovered vanishing star, the interference of an advanced alien civilization cannot be definitively ruled out as a possible cause.
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