What’s the most popular explanation for things that can’t be explained? Aliens! It’s turns out scientists may finally being agreeing with that assessment, at least in mysterious instances where stars vanish for no apparent reason.

In a new report in the Astronomical Journal, Beatriz Villarroel from the University of Uppsala in Sweden details leading a team of scientists searching for disappearing stars by comparing star data collected over a span of time and looking for anomalies. In this case, the massive databases were the USNO-B1.0 Catalog (skycharts produced by the US Naval Oceanography Precision Measuring Machine) and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (a sky mapping project using a telescope at Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico).

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A slices of the SDSS 3-dimensional map of the distribution of galaxies with the Earth at the center.

After comparing the images of over 290,000 stars over a 50 year time span, they found 148 stars that seemed to have vanished. Upon further analysis, all disappearances were resolved as errors or instrument problems … except one.

It was a depressing case in the sense that we neither could reject it and neither could we say that it was a real candidate.


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A map of the B1.0 catalog on the entire sky

So, why would Villarroel suspect aliens? If it was like the controversial Tabby’s Star, it would be dimming, not suddenly vanishing, and could be explained by technology problems. If the star was a quasar that disappeared into a black hole, it would have left evidence of its existence. A lack of evidence would be impossible, opening the door for alien speculation … perhaps some sort of advanced alien technology like a Dyson sphere that surrounds and harvests a star’s energy.

Equally impossible? Villarroel turns to Arthur C. Clarke’s Third Law for motivation:

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Is the disappearing star evidence of advance alien technology? Villarroel proposes searching the complete USNO-B1.0 dataset (which is 100 times larger than the sample used) and comparing it with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey to look for more “impossible” disappearances.

While you’re waiting, decide for yourself if it might be aliens by reading Profiles of the Future: An Inquiry into the Limits of the Possible, where Arthur C. Clarke explains his three laws:

  1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
  2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
  3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.


Paul Seaburn

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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