Weird star changes in brightness due to... aliens?

Link here. The short version – a distant star has occasional dips in brightness. Dips in brightness would normally be caused by orbiting planets – a big planet like Jupiter orbiting the star might cause periodic 1% or so dips in brightness. But this planet’s dips don’t appear to be regular, so far, and are much larger than 1% – up to 22% of the light from the star is sometimes blocked! That’s really huge – something really, really big is crossing between us and the star.

So what’s causing this? Big dust clouds, or something? Or a gigantic construction project by aliens?

Probably not aliens, but it’s still a pretty cool story.

It’s probably the ballast starting to go.

This might be a reference I don’t get…

That’s why fluorescent lights start flickering sometimes.

“That’s no moon…”

I get it, thanks :slight_smile:

Some types of stars are variable like that; astronomers, in a fit of poetic flourish, named them variable stars…

There are many reasons for that to happen that have nothing to do with orbiting planets, it can simply be a star going through an unstable phase of its evolution when a combination of factors make the star grow and shrink regularly. Surprisingly regularly in some cases.

Eta Aquilae
This is a Cepheid variable star, with an apparent magnitude that ranges from 3.5 to 4.4 over a period of 7.176641 days.

According to the research paper, based on the star’s spectroscopy and star type, there is no evidence that the star’s changes in brightness are because it’s a variable star.

[Cheech and Chong voice]

Dude, I seen it in the movies. It’s aliens.
They got really good shit out there


Hey, that is really fascinating!

If you read the paperthe answer is:

“By considering the observational constraints on dust clumps orbiting a normal main-sequence
star, we conclude that the scenario most consistent with the data in hand is the passage of
a family of exocomet fragments, all of which are associated with a single previous breakup
event. We discuss the necessity of future observations to help interpret the system”

Partially constructed ringworld.

That’s not “the answer”, that’s “an answer”. It might be correct. Further observation might confirm this, or it might disprove it.

It’s the answer to your question unless you expect one of us, with no direct access to the data or observing time on any telescope, to have a better one.

It is a cool story, so are you just asking for wild hypotheticals?

Yes, please!

It is probably some version of the Late Heavy Bombardment that we think happened in our solar system.

Some unknown disruption has placed many objects in unstable orbits. It is very interesting and needs study.

But to imagine the light fluctuations to be from giant space structures, orbiting artificial planets, maybe a Dyson Sphere under construction is a bit hopeful.

If they are the result of giant artifacts of civilization I image that they are Billboards in Space. Think of Coca-Cola advertisements that cannot be avoided day or night.

My hypothesis is that it is not light being blocked, just that there is less light emanated. The most likely source of extra illumination is party lights and fireworks. I therefore propose that this planet has some kick-ass planet-wide parties at random times.

There are many kinds of variable stars – eclipsing variables like Algol, expanding variables like Mira, Cepheid variables like delta Cephei. These all have very regular periods, which is what the OP is saying this star does NOT have.

But there are certainly variable stars with very irregular periods – Betelgeuse is one of these. They finally performed a Fourier analysis on its intensity variations and found that it has SIX different major components. To a lesser analysis, it doesn’;t have a regular period at all.

Or take the case of gamma Cassiopeia. It’s called an Irregular Variable Star because it apparently has no sort of period, even the kind Betelgeuse has.
To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever proposed that the brightnes changes in Betelgeuse or gamma Cassiopeia are due to aliens.

I can’t access the article iiandyii refers to, so I can’t say WHY they don’t think it’s a variable star, but the case of g Cas makes me think this star is probably a similar case.

The monks have gotten the first Eight Billion Names of God written down…

The star is 1500 light years away, and was picked up by Kepler which scanned 150,000 stars. Bear the latter in mind: an experiment with such a high sample size is likely to turn up a number of astronomically interesting outliers. The comet story may not be likely on its own, but that’s the same for any 1 in 150,000 event.

Another article on KIC 8462852 in the Atlantic Magazine:

The folks at the SETI Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley are currently drafting a proposal to look into this. They are hoping to be slotted in for January and next Fall. This sounds prudent. It’s probably not a Dyson sphere under construction. And even if it is, this is only a mildly diverting story anyway. … :wink:
Props to the Kepler team and the citizen-scientists at Planet Hunter.