In the on-again, off-again tale of Tabby’s Star – the mysterious star whose dimming some believed was caused by an alien-built, energy-harvesting Dyson sphere surrounding it – is trending towards off-again as astronomers report that KIC 8462852, its real but too-hard-to-remember name, has taken a 3 percent dip in the past few days. Since they still don’t know what exactly is causing this phenomena, they’re asking professional and amateur astronomers around the world for help.
So we are officially on alert and we are asking astronomers on telescopes … to please take spectra (light measurements) of the star.
Penn State astronomer Jason Wright issued this alert from UC Berkeley SETI’s Breakthrough Listen Lab. You may remember that Wright proposed that the fluctuations in Tabby’ Star may be caused by an artificial alien megastructure known as a Dyson swarm, which is a Dyson sphere made of Dyson rings. Wright is hoping to get as-it’s-happening data from telescopes at Berkeley and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory radio telescope in Green Bank, West Virginia, in addition to what any other astronomers might see.
One of them is Tabetha Boyajian, the discoverer and namesake of Tabby’s Star, who is now working at Louisiana State University. Her kickstarter program is paying for the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network (LCOGT) to constantly monitor KIC 8462852, which is near the 12th magnitude in the direction of Cygnus.
While the Dyson sphere or swarm idea has been eliminated, others are still under consideration. There’s the ‘swarm of asteroids blocking its light’ theory. Then there’s the ‘Tabby (the star) ate a big planet and it’s digesting it’ theory. Or it could be something else.
Whatever it is, the time is now to watch it. The 3 percent drop in light means the dimming has just started, Perhaps catching it this early in the process will reveal valuable clues to the cause. It may even give someone else a chance at astronomy infamy … Tabby seems like a nice person but it’s time to give another astronomer their fifteen minutes of fame. So get out your tele4scopes and point them at Tabby’s Star. As Jason Wright said:
This is not a drill!