It’s got an “unusual” light profile: I’m not saying it’s aliens but…

The buzz is about KIC 8462852:

Astronomers have spotted a strange mess of objects whirling around a distant star. Scientists who search for extraterrestrial civilizations are scrambling to get a closer look.

Source: The Most Mysterious Star in Our Galaxy – The Atlantic

“It looked like the kind of thing you might expect an alien civilization to build.”

What is going on? A cloud of debris? Space junk?

Do we need to consider aliens? Dyson spheres?

I’d say that’s a bit of premature jump and one that is going to get some attention but it’s just an argument from ignorance. We don’t know…

dyson spheres

Scientists can’t explain what huge object is blocking the light from this distant star 

Have We Detected Megastructures Built By Aliens Around A Distant Star?

Has Kepler Discovered an Alien Megastructure?

The Many, Many Times Astronomers Mistook Mundane Phenomena for Aliens

Let’s not confuse “unexplained” with unexplainable.

Space stuff is not the editor’s strong hand. I deal with earth. Feel free to add your two cents and additional info on this story in the comments.


  13 comments for “It’s got an “unusual” light profile: I’m not saying it’s aliens but…

  1. terry the censor
    October 15, 2015 at 9:03 PM

    The Atlantic:
    > The light pattern suggests there is a big mess of matter circling the star, in tight formation
    > looking for enormous technological artifacts orbiting other stars

    Speculating about artifacts large enough to block light from a star. That should be much further down on the list of possibilities. If we have exhausted the natural possibilities so easily, we should admit our knowledge of cosmology is quite meagre yet; we shouldn’t leap to “aliens!”

    At least the alien tech hypothesis (in this case) is testable — in theory. But it doesn’t seem the best use of resources.

  2. Bob
    October 15, 2015 at 9:25 PM

    The paper is pretty accessible, and the interesting thing is that for all the hoopla, it doesn’t mention aliens. It reminds me of the scene in Contact, where Arroway is going through all the possible things that might be causing the signal, from instrument error to garbled data, to…all sorts of astrophysical causes. This team likes the idea of a family of comets being batted into the inner system from the star’s Oort cloud. They end with “we need to study this one more.” The paper is worth reading.

    Terry: the object need not be all that big to measurably dim the star. A fraction of a percent is detectable in backyard equipment these days. The problem is that it’s not orbiting periodically. The dips are of up to 20% of the disk of the star (!?!) and then 18%, and then 5%….all of these are huge, and they are irregularly spaced out. Nobody, not even the guy from Penn who suggested Dyson spheres is saying it’s Dyson spheres. They just have not been ruled out yet. My understanding is that we would detect dyson spheres in the IR, but the scientists point out that there appears to be no infrared signal near by to indicate such heating. So, we have to wait.

  3. October 15, 2015 at 9:32 PM

    It seems to me that given two possibilities for what may have enough mass to block 22% of the star’s luminosity, a. comets, or b. a gigantic alien construction, that one’s newsworthiness would be directly proportional to its likelihood of being true.

  4. terry the censor
    October 15, 2015 at 9:43 PM

    > the object need not be all that big to measurably dim the star


    > The dips are of up to 20% of the disk of the star (!?!)

    Phil Plait: “Straight away, we know we’re not dealing with a planet here. Even a Jupiter-sized planet only blocks roughly 1 percent of this kind of star’s light”

    If one percent is a Jupiter…what is 20%? Something real big, I think.

  5. Theresa
    October 16, 2015 at 8:16 AM

    I don’t think this even qualifies as ‘Doubtful News’ as based on what we know at the moment, Aliens are at least a credible possibility.

  6. October 16, 2015 at 8:32 AM

    I would not go so far as to say “credible” at all. We don’t KNOW what it is. Our pieces are about all sorts of questionable claims. So, yes, this certainly qualifies.

  7. October 16, 2015 at 9:59 AM

    I read that some SETI types are requesting time on an appropriate radio telescope to listen to the star and, if there’s anything interesting, ask for the VLA to check it out. That sounds like a fine response to a hypothesis. If they do hear anything interesting, I’m sure we’ll see it in the news. (hoping for aliens !)

  8. Dubious f
    October 16, 2015 at 10:05 AM

    Let’s not loose the perspective that KIC 8462852 is 1480 ly away. A very far star that may have a lot of astral influences. Even if a plausible explanation makes census, the reality may be really different today. If it’s alien, they probably moved on, if it’s a bunched up small debris, they are probably spread out or absorbed by the star. Either way, we are 1500 years behind the event.

  9. Karl
    October 16, 2015 at 11:39 AM

    Obviously we’re getting whatever scientific dialog is going on in snippets filtered through news outlets. However, my understanding is SETI laid out ahead of time what *might be* indications of a civilization in Kepler data and, hey, if you find that could you punt it over to us? This has been done. The next trick is to try and hear radio type signals. It’s like getting another Wow signal. “Okay, we have something interesting. When we get that, step 2 is do this.”

  10. erique
    October 16, 2015 at 3:25 PM

    “Credible” how so?

    Fables and anecdotes are not credible, they are also the sole support for the existence of unicorns, leprechauns and even an alleged God…

    We don’t need to leap to aliens, no matter what wild-haired guys on the History channel may think…

  11. Bill T.
    October 17, 2015 at 12:55 AM

    A brown dwarf is on that order of size.

    I’m not saying I believe it to be a brown dwarf, I don’t have the expertise to log in with an opinion about the cause of the observed phenomena/

  12. Nasty Gash
    October 18, 2015 at 8:07 AM

    Has anyone offered the possibility that the obscuring object(s) might be closer to Kepler than to the star and therefor could be substantially smaller than is supposed based on the assumption that it is close to the star?

  13. Kurt
    October 19, 2015 at 2:51 PM

    It is my understanding that the scientists involved found an anomalous star system so are looking at all possibilities. As it turns out a very real (but very unlikely) possibility is aliens. Luckily, this is a fairly easy thing to look into and it’s my understanding that the folks involved are going to do that. They are looking for time at a radiotelescope so they can figure out what this anomaly actually is… aliens, comets, or something far stranger.

    I’m no expert but I follow a lot of the planet discovery/alien search stuff. If the data is correct, this is really strange. It doesn’t match any of our current assumptions, so I look forward to someone pointing more telescopes at it.

    Also, what upsets me most is that I’ve had to explain to like 4 people that the aliens won’t be coming here if we look at them because this would’ve been going on 1,500 years ago.

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