Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Alien 'Mega-Structure' Around Star KIC 8462852 ?

KIC 8462852 in IR and UV.png
Two photographs of Star KIC 8462852; first in infrared, and the second one in ultraviolet.
(Image Sources: Wikipedia.org , "KIC 8462852 in IR and UV" by Infrared: IPAC/NASAUltraviolet: STScI (NASA) - http://aladin.u-strasbg.fr/AladinLite/?target=TYC%203162-665-1&fov=0.27&survey=P%2F2MASS%2Fcolor and http://aladin.u-strasbg.fr/AladinLite/?target=TYC%203162-665-1&fov=0.27&survey=P%2FGALEXGR6%2FAIS%2Fcolor. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:KIC_8462852_in_IR_and_UV.png#/media/File:KIC_8462852_in_IR_and_UV.png )

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

Since late September, there has been speculation that an alien-built “mega-structure” may explain unusual fluctuations in light from Star KIC 8462852. Now, a new study seems to disprove another major explanation for these light fluctuations: comet fragments.

The Star KIC 8462852 is an F-type main sequence star, located in the Constellation Cygnus the Swan. Though this star has been observed for more than a century, recent observations by NASA's Kepler Space Telescope have found peculiar light fluctuations in 2011 and 2013, not seen with any other star.

The Kepler Space Telescope uses the dimming of stars to find extra-solar planets that may be orbiting those stars. However, the unusual dimming of Star KIC 8462852 was not compatible with the dimming usually found when an exo-planet blocks some of the star's light

On October 19, the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute announced that they would start looking for extraterrestrial infrastructure surrounding Star KIC 8462852. Their interest peaked by the unusual light fluctuations of this particular star. Thus far, the SETI Institute has found no intelligent radio signals from this star..

The speculation regarding a possible alien-built “mega-structure” has been one explanation for the unusual light dimming with this star. It has been proposed that such a “mega-structure” could be a “Dyson Sphere” or “Dyson Swarm,” which would be artificial structures that surround a star in order to collect most or all of the star's solar energy. It is suggested that an advanced civilization would need to build such a “mega-structure,” to meet the increasing energy needs of their growing society. Finding, and confirming the existence of, such a “mega-structure” could be a confirmation that an advanced civilization resides near this star.

In an October 23 interview with the radio program, “Essential Pittsburgh” on Pittsburgh's WESA-FM 90.5, Point Park University Professor and Astrophysicist Brendan Mullan (formerly Director of the Henry Buhl, Jr. Planetarium and Observatory at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Science Center) said “It’s probably not gonna be a mega-structure. It’s more likely something natural that the universe is throwing at us just to say ‘Hey, I’m a crazy universe, there’s new stuff out there every day.’”

One of the natural explanations hypothesized for this unusual dimming was a family of comets with a long, eccentric orbit around the star. This hypothesis was supported in a November 24 news release from NASA.

Now, a new study by Bradley E. Schaefer, Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Louisiana State University, greatly questions the comet hypothesis. According to this new study, more than a century of observations of this star seem to indicate that comet fragments cannot explain the unusual dimming of the star, as viewed from Earth.

Professor Schaefer reviewed archival photographic plates, from 1890 to 1989, containing this star, at Harvard University. He found that the light coming from Star KIC 8462852 had consistent and noticeable dimming for at least a century.

In the abstract of his professional paper (submitted to Astrophysical Journal Letters), published on Cornell University Library's pre-print Internet web site “http://arxiv.org,” Professor Schaefer states, “This century-long dimming is completely unprecedented for any F-type main sequence star. So the Harvard light curve provides the first confirmation that KIC 8462852 has anything unusual going on.”

He goes on to say, “Within the context of the comet-family idea, the century-long dimming trend requires an estimated 648,000 giant comets (each with 200 km diameter) all orchestrated to pass in front of the star within the last century. I do not see how it is possible for something like 648,000 giant comets to exist around one star, nor to have their orbits orchestrated so as to all pass in front of the star within the last century. So I take this century-long dimming as a strong argument against the comet-family hypothesis to explain the Kepler dips.”

Massimo Marengo of Iowa State University has now suggested that the next-best explanation may be that Star KIC 8462852 has a ring around it, as do four planets in our solar system (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune). He notes that other stars, such as Fomalhaut, do have such rings.

In the October radio interview, Professor Mullan said, “As an astronomer, [aliens] is the last explanation you should be seeking when you see something anomalous like this star.” He added that the existence of an alien-built “mega-structure” could, still, not be entirely ruled-out: “It’s probably not aliens but he, who knows? Might be fun.”

More on Star KIC 8462852: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KIC_8462852

Professor Schaefer's pre-print abstract: Link >>> http://arxiv.org/abs/1601.03256

More on a Dyson Sphere: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dyson_sphere

More on a Dyson Swarm: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dyson_sphere#Dyson_swarm

Professor Mullan's Radio Interview:
Link >>> http://wesa.fm/post/anybody-out-there-astrophysicists-turn-attention-potential-megastructure-space

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
              2016 January 19.

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        2016: 75th Year of Pittsburgh's Buhl Planetarium Observatory
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