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).
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.
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: