A new theory takes a swing at the Alien Megastructure—Mystery solved?

There’s  a star located some 1,500 light years from Earth which randomly dims. So far, no one has been able to explain what causes the star’s awkward dimming leading some to believe there’s a massive alien megastructure positioned next to the star. Now, experts from Colombia have come up with a new theory that may put the mystery to rest. 

The star KIC 8462852, also known as Tabby’s star in honor of Tabetha S. Boyajian, one of the astronomers who has discovered and studied it, has intrigued the scientific community ever since its discovery.

The luminous flux of the star, located about 1,500 light years from planet Earth, is constantly interrupted by an unknown body.

In 2015, Tabetha Boyajian and her colleagues, then of Yale University, found that a star referred to as KIC 8462852 had dimmed several times over a few years in a way they couldn’t explain. In fact, in a way, none was able to explain.

An artist’s impression of KIC 8462852, a mysterious star more than 1,400 light-years away. NASA/JPL-CALTECH

This particularity has fueled the conjecture that it is an “alien megastructure” that appears in between the star and our viewpoint from Earth.

So far, all known natural explanations have been debunked and countless experts have leaned towards the Alien megastructure theory.

According to the alien megastructures theory, a highly advanced extraterrestrial civilization may have built a Massive alien megastructure that periodically causes the star’s light to partially dim.

However, according to a group of physicists from the University of Antioquia, in Colombia, a new theory about the mysterious star may put the mystery to an end.

Researchers believe that a planet surrounded by rings, similar to Saturn, could be generating the strange phenomenon, causing irregular dimming of Tabby’s star.

Experts argue how things rings of the planet would definitely block some light from the Star. Then, as the planet moves into position it would dim even further. After the planet passes, the rings would come into action again, further blocking the light, hence making it look as if an alien megastructure was present in front of the sun.

So what did scientists do to figure it out? One of the experts, Mario Sucerquia and his colleagues simulated a light curve from a ringed planet—like Saturn—about one-tenth the Earth-sun distance from its star. They found that in addition to the dimming, the star would tug on the rings causing them to wobble. This effect would make the silhouette of the rings as seen by an observer from Earth even stranger from transit to transit.

Maybe a Saturn-like planet could explain the enigmatic dimming of the star.

However, while many find the theory interesting, Keivan Stassun at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee disagrees saying: “To my knowledge, there has not yet been a claim of quasiperiodic or periodic dimming in Tabby’s star, as one would expect with something linked to material orbiting that star.”

“The point of this work is to show the community that there are mechanisms that can alter the light curves,” Sucerquia says. “These changes can be generated by the dynamics of the moons or the rings, and the changes in these systems can occur in such short scales as to be detected in just a few years.”

For the moment the theory is purely speculative, but according to astronomers, it could explain what’s going on.

Journal reference: arXiv1708.04600

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