Published: Sat, January 06, 2018
Research | By Raquel Erickson

Has the mystery of the Tabby's Star finally been solved?

Has the mystery of the Tabby's Star finally been solved?

The objective of the study was to analyse the dips at all wavelengths because if they were all of near-equal measure, they would be caused by a physical structure, which includes the possibility of an alien megastructure.

After two years of intensive observations and sometimes wild theories, astronomers are confident in saying that the secret of Tabby's star's mysterious dips in light is not due to alien megastructures. The new data shows that different colours of light are being blocked at different intensities.

The star, which is more than 1,000 light years away and 1,000 degrees hotter than the sun, is normal aside from sporadic dimming and brightening, LSU says.

Artist's concept of Tabby's Star.

"Therefore, whatever is passing between us and the star is not opaque, as would be expected from a planet or alien megastructure", said Boyajian.

The money bought time on the Las Cumbres Observatory from March 2016 to December 2017, a robotic telescope network that switches observations between 21 telescopes at eight locations as the sun rises and sets, reports Ashley Strickland at CNN. They spotted and analyzed four separate dimming events, which occurred in the summer of 2017. 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 freaky behaviour. "If they were almost the same, this would suggest that the cause was something opaque, like an orbiting disk, planet, or star, or even large structures in space", said Jason Wright of Penn State, one of more than 200 researchers associated with the data-collection campaign.

Boyajian and her team funded the new observations via a Kickstarter campaign, which raised more than $107,000.

It was citizen scientists known as "Planet Hunters" who were the ones to first detect the star's mysterious behaviour. That's appropriate, because citizen scientists helped Boyajian recognize the weirdness of Tabby's star in the first place.

Why is it called Boyajian's star?

The star - nicknamed Tabby's Star - has intrigued astronomers since its discovery in late 2015 because of the way it dims and brightens over time like no other star.

"We're gathering so much data on a single target". But, he added, "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". The most spectacular suggestion, however, was that the dips were the result of an orbiting alien megastructure-a swarm supposedly engineered to collect energy for a distant civilization.

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