An unusual cluster of objects in space is generating excitement among astronomers, some of whom believe the formation may be evidence of alien life in our galaxy, reports The Atlantic. Don’t get your hopes up though — it may also just be a natural occurrence that coincidentally formed around the same time we developed the ability to view it using the Kepler Space Telescope. That said, it’s still a rather unusual formation, and it’s causing quite a stir in the scientific community.
Designated KIC 8462852, the star is located above the Milky Way, between the constellations Cygnus the swan and Lyra the harp. It first attracted the attention of astronomers in 2009 when the Kepler Space Telescope singled it out as possibly having orbiting planets. It landed on the radar again in 2011, when citizen astronomers volunteering at Planet Hunters flagged it as being “interesting” and “bizarre.”
What attracted their attention was a large mass of matter found in tight formation around the star. This would be expected if the star was young, but other telescopic evidence suggests it is a mature star. It also must be a new formation, or the debris field would not be there. Either gravity would have clumped the debris together or it would have been absorbed by the star.
“We’d never seen anything like this star. It was really weird.”
She recently published a paper about the phenomena, looking at all the possible natural explanations. The most reasonable explanation is that another star passed by KIC 8462852 star with enough comets in tow to produce the unusual pattern. Although, cosmically speaking, it would be highly unlikely that a star would do this at the exact same time we developed the capability to see it.
This controversial star formation has cause some astronomers to consider other explanations, including the possibility of alien life. According to Penn State University’s Jason Wright, the object is bizarre enough for him to entertain the idea that it could be a swarm of alien megastructures built by aliens. “Aliens should always be the very last hypothesis you consider,” Wright told The Atlantic, “but this looked like something you would expect an alien civilization to build.”
“I was fascinated by how crazy it looked,” he added.
Boyajian also is exploring the alien angle and is working both with Wright and Andrew Siemion, the Director of the SETI Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley. As soon as January of next year, the three propose pointing a radio dish at the star to see if it emits radio waves indicative of technological activity. If significant radio wave activity is detected, the trio would use the Very Large Array (VLA) in New Mexico to confirm their findings.
Until we have more information, we can only speculate about the possibility of looking at someone — or something — while it looks back at us.
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