The further we push out into space and our Solar System, the more questions get raised about the possibility of alien life. The universe is massive, beyond massive, which means that the chances for intelligent life being out there are pretty good. I mean, how could humanity be the only species able to evolve this far? We already know there are millions of other Earth-like planets out there revolving around similar stars at similar distances. Intelligent life just makes sense statistically. That’s why when Tabby’s star was discovered in October of 2015, people started freaking out.
In short, astronomers noticed a weird pattern of light which was nothing scientists had ever seen in space before. Typically, a star’s brightness dips by approximately 1 percent when a planet passes in front of it, but in this particular case, it dipped by almost 22 percent. That means there is something huge out there interfering with the star’s brightness.
Personally, I’m picturing the Death Star.
What makes this find even more interesting is that now astronomers are looking for unusual dips in brightness like the case with Tabby’s star. It seems like it isn’t the only one, and there could be even more ‘alien megastructures’ out there in the deep reaches of space.
EPIC 204278916, which was detected by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft in 2014, has a relatively similar size to that of our Sun, but only half the mass. For the past two years, the star has been watched by a team of astronomers led by Simone Scaringi of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany. After careful observation, they discovered something even weirder than the light patterns of Tabby’s star.
Scientists have reported that the star, who’s name I don’t want to type out again, has been showing dips in brightness of up to 65 percent for almost an entire month, 25 days to be precise. The question is, what kind of massive structure, planet, or anything else could be causing this star’s brightness to dip such an incredible amount? Considering it’s only supposed to dip by 1 percent.
There are four possible explanations for the major dip in light seen from the star. The first one suggests that the dimming could be caused by vast swarms of comets around the star, which are all contributing to the reduced light seen here on Earth.
The second theory states that the star spins so fast that it becomes oblate, meaning that its radius is greater at the equator than it is at the poles. As a result, the poles seem to be hotter and brighter than the equator, which makes the star seem dimmer than it really is.
The third theory, which happens to be the least probable, suggests that there could be something like a massive construction of solar panels encircling the star. This is more along the lines of the ‘alien megastructure’ theory.
However, the fourth hypothesis was proposed by the same German astronomers who made the first observations of the star in 2014. They believe that a dust disk could be responsible for the major dips in light. If the disk is oriented in the right position relative to Earth, meaning it’s edge is in a direct line with our planet, then it could be blocking the amount of light we see from the star itself. The star is young, only about 11 million years old, so the presence of a disk would make sense based on what we typically see with new stars.
Only time will tell if the star is blocked by a protoplanetary disk of dust, or if we need to find the next Luke Skywalker as our last source of hope.