By Patrick Caughill
New data collected on Tabby's Star indicates that the strange dimming observed by researchers is likely caused by dust and not alien technology. The data was collected using the more than $100,000 donated through a Kickstarter campaign.
Answers in data
In 2015, researchers first noticed that KIC 8462852, better known as “Tabby’s Star,” was inexplicably dimming with no clear indication as to what might be causing this strange light pattern.
Now, thanks to a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign, researchers led by Louisiana State University (LSU) Department of Physics & Astronomy Assistant Professor Tabetha Boyajian were able to collect additional data on Tabby’s Star.
That data has produced new insights into the mysterious celestial body, which the researchers have overviewed in a paper published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Some had speculated that the dimming of Tabby’s Star was caused by some kind of orbiting alien megastructure. No doubt those SETI hopefuls will be dismayed to find out that the new data points to dust as being the cause of the strange light patterns.
According to the paper, various colors of light emanating from the star are being blocked at different intensities. If something opaque, such as an alien megastructure or planet, was passing between the Earth and the star, that would not be the case.
Strange and exciting
Anomalies like Tabby’s Star are best examined with a healthy dose of skepticism. As previously reported, the cause of the dimming had plenty of possible explanations far more plausible than aliens. Discussing the possibility of alien involvement or even hoping for such involvement isn’t necessarily problematic, though.
The place where imagination and science intersect has lead to some truly fantastic developments, such as all of the technology that has been, in part, influenced by “Star Trek” or other works of science fiction. Plus, remarkable discoveries like Tabby’s Star can encourage otherwise indifferent people to take an interest in science.
Allowing far-fetched hopes of aliens to get in the way of the actual gathering of data would discredit the scientific community, and we must always focus on what we can prove factually using the scientific method. Still, there is no harm in hoping the line between the factual and the fantastic gets blurred every once in a while.
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