Astronomers are one step closer to unlocking the mystery of Tabby's Star

Astronomers are one step closer to unlocking the mystery of Tabby's Star

The most mysterious star located in the constellation of Cygnus, approximately 1400 light-years from the Sun, has repeatedly spurred alien megastructure theories.

KIC 8462852 first came to the attention of the astronomy world thanks to NASA's Kepler spacecraft, which searches for planets around distant stars.

Previous speculation about the freaky Tabby's star wondered whether there was some sort of extraterrestrial interference, but it turns out that the dimming of the star may (much more boringly) be a case of space dust. Wright also points out that "some astronomers favor the idea that nothing is blocking the star - that it just gets dimmer on its own - and this also is consistent with this summer's data".

So, while varying opinions as to what is causing the peculiar dips have been proposed over the past few years, a team of astrophysicists has now published what it believes to be the most likely answer - and it is sad news for those hopeful of extraterrestrial life being the cause.

This kind of seemingly random dimming has never been seen in any other star in the universe and scientists have been unable to predict how long these episodes would last or how much light the star would appear to lose.

The idea of aliens drummed up so much public interest that more than 1,700 people donated $100,000 to a Kickstarter campaign to fund further observations of the star.

Then, the big dip returned, and the astronomers used the Las Cumbres Observatory to peer into the light signatures as it moved. So that puts the alien megastructure theory to rest.

Since May 2017, four incidents of Tabby's star dimming were noted by researchers. First studied by professional astronomers in 2015, researchers said that they hadn't seen any star behaving the same way as KIC 8462852, but could not rule out alien activity as the cause of the freakish behaviour. The star has been in the news a lot since 2015, when a team led by Boyajian (hence the star's nickname) reported that it had dimmed dramatically over the previous five years or so, once by a whopping 22 percent.

"It's exciting. I am so appreciative of all of the people who have contributed to this in the past year - the citizen scientists and professional astronomers", Dr. Boyajian said. "Weird stars that have dust coming from somewhere isn't as much of a headline grabber", Jason Wright, an astronomer at Penn State University and one of the 200 authors on the paper, tells The Verge. And ideally, Ellis is hoping to use an infrared instrument on a space-based telescope to scan Tabby's Star during a dimming event to get a better sense of the size of the dust particles and their location around the star.

But the dips Kepler recorded from Tabby's star didn't correspond to anything remotely like a planet's shadowy fingerprint. Even a large planet passing in front of the star would have blocked only about 1% of the light.

"Boyajian said", The scientists probed the Elsie sequence in multiple color bands.

The new study was published online today (Jan. 3) in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

"The data that we have it shows that it has to be something that is semi-opaque; it's not completely opaque and you'd expect a Dyson's Sphere to be completely opaque and block the light out equally at all wavelengths", Boyajian said.

Not only that, but many observations were also conducted by amateur astronomers. It was funded by a Kickstarter campaign that attracted support from more than 1,700 people and raised more than $100,000.

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