NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope captured unusual light patterns coming from a star that is almost 1,500 light years away from Earth, making scientists wonder why that may be.
On its mission to find life on other plants or just other habitable planets, the Kepler Space Telescope has been observing more than 150,000 stars. Until now, only one of the stars stood out because of its irregular light pattern.
When the light emitted by a star has certain dips in it, it means that something (perhaps a planet) could be passing in front of it. The Kepler Space Telescope is especially looking for those dips in light.
Dr. Tabetha Boyajian, a postdoctoral astronomy fellow at Yale University, said that they had never seen something similar to star KIC 8462852, because it was unlike any other star that Kepler observed. At first, the astronomers thought that it may be the faulty data, but they decided to check everything before reaching a final conclusion, Dr. Boyajian added.
Star KIC 8462852 has extremely irregular light patterns, and every few years the light dims inexplicably. KIC 8462852 is also a mature star, unlike young stars that may have irregular light patterns due to extra dust clouds.
In a recent paper, scientists found that light coming from other stars in not influencing KIC 8462852, because the distance between the stars is too big.
What scientists concluded was that the irregular light patters coming from the star were not due to a planet orbiting KIC 8462852, but due to huge mass of particles. Other objects such as remains from an asteroid impact or comets that may be orbiting the star have also been ruled out.
Scientists were baffled by the fact that the data was real and not erroneous, Dr. Boyajian said.
“Aliens should always be the very last hypothesis you consider, but this looked like something you would expect an alien civilization to build,” said Dr. Jason Wright, an associate professor of astronomy at Pennsylvania State University, who was fascinated by the ‘crazy-looking’ data.
Dr. Wright said that the mass of particles floating around the star may signal the presence of an ‘alien megastructure’. However he also said that the hypothesis must be approached sceptically.
The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley is teaming up with Dr. Boyajian and the other researchers, to find whether aliens are in fact responsible for the collection of particles near the star. To do so, they will search for radio waves – which (man-made) technological devices emit – coming from the star.
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