“Why Does Star KIC 8462852 Keep Dimming?” –The Kepler-Mission Mystery Endures (VIDEO)




Why does star KIC 8462852 keep wavering? Nobody knows. A star somewhat similar to our Sun, KIC 8462852 was one of many distant stars being monitored by NASA’s robotic Kepler satellite to see if it had planets. Citizen scientists voluntarily co-inspecting the data along with computers found this unusual case where a star’s brightness dropped at unexpected times by as much as 20 percent for as long as months — but then recovered. Common reasons for dimming — such as eclipses by orbiting planets or stellar companions — don’t match the non-repetitive nature of the dimmings.

A currently debated theory is dimming by a cloud of comets or the remnants of a shattered planet, but these would not explain data indicating that the star itself has become slightly dimmer over the past 125 years. Nevertheless, featured here is a NASA/APOD artist’s illustration of a planet breaking up, drawn to depict NGC 2547-ID8, a different system that shows infrared evidence of such a collision.




Recent observations of KIC 8462852 did not detect the infrared glow of a closely orbiting dust disk, but gave a hint that the system might have such a disk farther out. Future observations are encouraged and creative origin speculations are sure to continue.

KIC 8462852 is situated above the Milky Way, between the Cygnus and Lyra constellations. This past October, 2015, a group of citizen scientists from the Planet Hunters program were examining data obtained from NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope when they noticed the bizarre light pattern of the star, called KIC 8462852. Among the 150,000 stars examined by the Kepler Telescope, this is the only one to show light flickering irregularly with unparalleled dips in brightness.

“We’d never seen anything like this star,” Planet Hunters overseer Tabetha Boyajian told The Atlantic. “It was really weird. We thought it might be bad data or movement on the spacecraft, but everything checked out.”



“I was fascinated by how crazy it looked,” Penn State University astronomer Jason Wright told The Atlantic. “Aliens should always be the very last hypothesis you consider, but this looked like something you would expect an alien civilisation to build.” Wright suggested the light pattern could be from a “swarm of megastructures” designed to harness energy from the star.

“If we build a machine with the intellectual capability of one human, then within five years, its successor is more intelligent than all humanity combined, ” said SETI Institute chief astronomer, Seth Shostak. “Once any society invents the technology that could put them in touch with the cosmos, they are at most only a few hundred years away from changing their own paradigm of sentience to artificial intelligence.”

So continues the debate, and the mystery we first reported on back in October of 2015

The Daily Galaxy via NASA, JPL-Caltech http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap160613.html?



"The Galaxy" in Your Inbox, Free, Daily