Alien Megastructure / The discovery of a strange pattern of light surrounding a distant star called KIC 8462852 has some of the most practical scientists considering the possibility of advanced alien technology. The star is located about 1,500 light-years away, between the Cygnus and Lyre constellations of our Milky Way galaxy.
“Aliens should always be the very last hypothesis you consider, but this looked like something you would expect an alien civilization to build,” Jason Wright, an astronomer at Penn State University, told reporters at The Atlantic.
KIC 8462852 was first discovered by NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope eight years ago, and scientists have been tracking the light it emits every since. This is the single best way to locate distant planets, given that slight dips in a star’s brightness can indicate that it has large objects orbiting it in a regular fashion. These ‘dips’ are typically very slight, with stars dimming by less than 1 percent every few days or even months. But KIC 8462852 is different. Not only are there more dips than expected, but these dips are highly irregular.
Reports indicate that at one point, the amount of starlight dropped by 15 percent, and at another, 22 percent.
“Straight away, we know we’re not dealing with a planet here,” astronomer Phil Plait commented. “Even a Jupiter-sized planet only blocks roughly 1 percent of this kind of star’s light, and that’s about as big as a planet gets. It can’t be due to a star, either; we’d see it if it were. And the lack of a regular, repeating signal belies both of these as well. Whatever is blocking the star is big, though, up to half the width of the star itself!”
According to Ross Andersen of The Atlantic, the most obvious explanation is that KIC 8462852 has a space junkyard of sorts circulating it. The only problem with this theory is that it is typically rue of young stars, and KIC 8462852 is believed to be very mature.
“We’d never seen anything like this star. It was really weird,” Tabetha Boyajian from Yale University told Andersen, before confirming that scientists have already ruled out the possibility of false information. “We thought it might be bad data or movement on the spacecraft, but everything checked out.”
Another possibility is that another star passed into KIC 8462852’s system and temporarily disturbed gravity.
“That would be an extraordinary coincidence if that happened so recently, only a few millennia before humans developed the tech to loft a telescope into space. That’s a narrow band of time, cosmically speaking,” Andersen admits.