Astronomers running a model of a giant ringed planet around a star have found that such a massive world could very likely be the answer to the bizarre dimming effect occurring with KIC 8462852 (nicknamed Tabby's Star), otherwise known as the "alien megastructure" star. This star has been the subject of considerable attention since its strange dimming was discovered, and one of the more popular hypotheses offered for the dip in light emission from the star is that it is host to a Dyson sphere (the so-called alien megastructure) that collects its energy for the advanced alien civilization that built it. But according to the latest study, the dimming could be a result of something far more natural than advanced alien technology.
Astronomers at the University of Valencia and the University of Cantabria in Spain have devised an alternate explanation for the dimming of KIC 8462852. Using a model that incorporated a planet five times the size of Jupiter, the scientists discovered, according to ScienceAlert, that such a planet, with an expansive set of rings, could be responsible for the dimming phenomenon that has garnered close scrutiny since 2015. The model, the team said, suggested that the giant ringed planet, if the massive rings were tilted a certain way, could account for some of the dimming of its parent star.
The model's findings also suggested that the rest of the dimming effects were caused by trailing asteroids -- two sets of them. The astronomers predicted that since such swarms of asteroids travel in pairs, that another dip in light emission from Tabby's Star should occur in 2021.
The researchers suggested astronomers keep a close watch on the dimming star. The sudden dimming of the star last month prompted a "call to arms," according to a report from The Inquisitr, and a targeting of telescopes to study KIC 8462852.
"We aim at offering a relatively natural solution, invoking only phenomena that have been previously observed, although perhaps in larger or more massive versions," the astronomers write in their paper, "KIC 8462852: Will The Trojans Appear Again In 2021?" (The study is published online at arXiv.org.)
The proffered hypothesis of the giant ringed planet causing the dip in light emission from the star could account for all the dimming, because an exoplanet would not reflect light when passing behind the star but such a passage would produce a dip in total light emitted by the system, according to the researchers.
The "alien megastructure" hypothesis was met by many in the scientific community as optimistic but probably not the most likely explanation for the dimming star. In fact, several natural phenomena have been suggested as explanations for the strange dimming effect.
One of those explanations was a massive periodic swarm of comets occluding the star but that was dismissed by others as unsatisfactory in that it didn't explain the continued dimming increased dimming over time. Another hypothesis suggested that interstellar comets could account for the dimming of Tabby's Star.
"It's great that we're getting creative and maybe some parts of this theory might comprise the final answer, but I'm fairly sceptical this is the solution," David Kipping of Columbia University told Shannon Hall at New Scientist, noting that the hypothesis had problems in the way the model scales.
The authors of the giant ringed planet explanation readily admit that the hypothesis has scalar problems but insist that the hypothesis is supported by much of the data.
"Whatever the solution to the riddle, it's going to be exciting," one of the researchers, Alberto Fernández-Soto, told New Scientist.
It will be interesting to see what happens if Tabby's Star dims in 2021...
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