This might come as a huge disappointment to some readers. Tabby’s Star, the mysteriously dimming star which has dominated astronomical news over the last year, is most likely not home to a nearby advanced alien civilization capable of building a Dyson sphere megastructure around it. What a bummer.
Astronomers have proposed all sorts of alternate theories for the star’s anomalous behavior including that the star might be digesting a planet à la Galactus The Lifebringer, Devourer of Worlds, or even that an unknown ringed planet might be situated in between the star and our telescopes, periodically obscuring its light as the rings rotate. Despite these seemingly plausible natural explanations, many optimistic alien seekers have held out hope that the planet could indeed be proof of not only an alien race, but also of the viability of constructing a real Dyson sphere.
Well, now those hopes have (likely) been shattered thanks to astronomers from the University of Arizona. According to new data data collected by NASA and the Belgian AstroLAB IRIS observatory, the most likely cause of Tabby’s Star’s mysterious periodic dimming is a cloud of dust orbiting the star. The data show that the star continues to emit infrared light when its ultraviolet and visible light is dimmed, meaning that whatever surrounds the star is likely no bigger than dust particles. According to Huan Meng, lead author of the new study in the Astrophysical Journal, the chances of a solid megastructure surrounding the star are quite low:
This pretty much rules out the alien megastructure theory, as that could not explain the wavelength-dependent dimming. We suspect, instead, there is a cloud of dust orbiting the star with a roughly 700-day orbital period.
Typical scientists, always shattering alien hopes. This doesn’t mean that there still can’t be Dyson sphere megastructures somewhere, there’s just likely not one around this particular star. Chin up, alien hopefuls. We’ll find ‘em sooner or later – or they’ll find us.