"Alien megastructure" star is at it again with strange dimming

The star, named KIC 8462852, exhibits odd momentarily dips in brightness and no one knows what exactly causes those flickers.

The perplexing cosmic object known as "Boyajian's star" is once again exhibiting a mysterious pattern of dimming and brightening that scientists have tried to explain with hypotheses ranging from swarms of comets to alien megastructures. The scientists observed that its brightness returned to its normal levels.

Most scientists, including Wright and Boyajian, don't think it's very likely that there is an alien civilization building planet-size structures around one of their stars. Detected in 2015 by NASA's Kepler space telescope, the star steadily dimmed - at times up to 22 percent - during the four-year span of observations. "Right now, we're organising lots of different telescopes", Wright said in an interview with UC Berkeley's SETI program, noting that observers on both Keck telescopes in Hawaii were going to look at Tabby's Star tonight, along with, hopefully, folks at several other observatories elsewhere in the United States and around the world.

This week, observations of the star located some 1,400 light-years away showed a potentially major dimming event was beginning to happen again. One suggests there may be a large cloud of dust and debris around the star. All previous dimming periods were identified in historic data - it was analyzed long after the anomaly had passed.

The Breakthrough Listen initiative, which searches for signs of intelligent life in the universe, has also taken an interest in the star and will be observing it with the Automated Planet Finder telescope at Lick Observatory in California, according to Andrew Siemion, director or the Berkeley SETI Research Center, said in the webcast.

In fact, Tabby's star is so unusual that none of the regular explanations can describe it.

Yale University's Tabetha Boyajian, who led the research of the star and it is even dedicated to her for her work, said a year ago that aliens could be responsible. This sent astronomers like Tabetha Boyajian, who is credited with discovering the star and its odd nature, scrambling on social media and elsewhere to get "eyes" on the system, both human and technological. The announcement of a new dip set off alarm bells in the astronomical community, and those with access to telescopes made plans to take spectrum readings. "We need to have a network of people around the world that are ready to jump on [and observe it]", Wright said.

  • Salvatore Jensen