Alien megastructure case reopens with weird new evidence

9 Aug 2016

The ‘alien megastructure’ cosmic mystery has reared its head once again as, despite previous attempts to explain away the unusual light dips of a distant star, a new study suggests it’s getting even weirder.

Since 2015, the more science-fiction-minded out there have proposed that the distant star KIC 8462852 shows evidence of a giant alien megastructure surrounding it, referred to as a Dyson Sphere, which surrounds the star, extracting its solar energy.

The reasoning behind such a theory was the discovery by researchers that showed nearby exoplanets experiencing irregularly-shaped, aperiodic dips in light down to below the 20pc level.

Future Human

This would be unlike anything seen before by the Kepler space telescope, with those advocating for the Dyson Sphere possibility suggesting that such activity could only come from an unnatural attempt to harness the star’s energy.

With NASA quick to dismiss such claims as fanciful, other researchers, too, came out to offer more likely possibilities, including the existence of swarming comets passing in front of our instruments and the star, resulting in the abnormal light dip readings.

However, while this likely scenario was enough to convince the majority of the astrophysicist community, a new study led by the California Institute of Technology’s Benjamin Montet has made even more strange discoveries.

‘It gets weirder and weirder’

“It seems that every time someone looks at the star, it gets weirder and weirder,” Montet has said.

By analysing the first 1,000 days of Kepler’s mission, Montet and his team noticed that the star’s brightness decreased by 0.34pc each year, while during the next 200 days it dropped by as much as 2.5pc before levelling out.

According to New Scientist, this results in three dimming scenarios, including the first major 20pc dips; the smaller, gradual dips found during the 1,000-day period; and finally the dip that occurred during the latter 200-day period.

When discussing the possibility of an alien megastructure, Montet’s adviser, Josh Simon, did not rule out the possibility, but still puts it far down the list of possibilities.

“Once you’re invoking arbitrary advanced aliens doing something with technology far beyond ours, then there isn’t very much that can’t be explained,” he said.

“But we don’t really want to resort to that until we exhaust all of the possible natural explanations we can think of.”

Dyson Sphere illustration via ビッグアップジャパン/Flickr

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic