Tabby’s star, known by it’s more technical name KIC 8462852, was discovered earlier this year by Yale University astronomer Tabetha “Tabby” Boyajian and drew instant attention for the strange, unprecedented dimming phenomenon astronomers observed in the star’s luminosity. According to data from NASA’s Kepler Space telescope, the star has been observed to dim in a non-linear fashion, causing some to speculate that the star was in the midst of being surrounded by a Dyson sphere, a solar energy-capturing device currently far beyond the capabilities of human engineers but theoretically possible for a very advanced alien civilization.
The mystery and unexplained questions surrounding Tabby’s star have prompted the Berkeley SETI Research Center to launch a new project called “Breakthrough Listen” designed to hunt for intelligent life around Tabby's star by gathering data to try and determine what might be behind the mysterious dimming phenomenon.
While there has been much speculation about the possibility of an advanced alien race living near Tabby’s Star, Andrew Siemion, director of the Berkeley SETI Research Center and co-director of Breakthrough Listen isn’t so convinced:
Everyone, every SETI program telescope, I mean every astronomer that has any kind of telescope in any wavelength that can see Tabby’s star has looked at it. It’s been looked at with Hubble, it’s been looked at with Keck, it’s been looked at in the infrared and radio and high energy, and every possible thing you can imagine, including a whole range of SETI experiments. Nothing has been found.
Despite Siemion’s skepticism, the new SETI project will move forward with observations of Tabby’s Star for the next two months. The project is predicted to collect close to 1 petabyte of data.
There are several other theories behind the dimming phenomenon seen in Tabby’s Star. Boyajian, the astronomer who discovered the mysterious star, originally speculated that a group of comets was breaking up in front of the star, causing the star’s light to dim. However, that theory has since been refuted by further observations, so there’s still a chance that Tabby’s Star could be the home of an advanced race capable of building Dyson sphere megastructures. Let’s just hope they come in peace.