We have sad news for all of you hoping to meet aliens before you die: the viral story of the mysterious star with the weird diminishing light, thought to be proof of a giant megastructure built by another life form, is likely a result of flawed data here on Earth.
The star in question is KIC 8462852, also known as Tabby’s Star. First spotted by the Kepler telescope, Tabby’s Star was producing unusual and unexplained shadows. It looked like a number of irregularly shaped objects were passing in between the telescope and the star, creating unpredicatable dips in light too weird to be planets or moons. Researchers suggested many explanations, the very last of which was an alien megastructure built to harness the star’s light. It was never very likely, but the theory went viral, and was supported by another study claiming the light from the star was dimming — over the years the aliens built more of the structure to block more of the light.
It was last year we first told you about the intriguing star, found in the Cygnus constellation 1,480 light-years from Earth. And though there was already evidence aliens were not involved, a new study, prompted by the initial follow-up report that the star had diminished in brightness an enormous and unprecedented 20% over the last century, says that figure is the byproduct of different researchers using different telescopes and cameras to record the data.
The peer-reviewed study, completed by researchers at LeHigh University and Vanderbilt and accepted by the Astrophysical Journal, says the inconsistent data collected over a century, and not aliens, can account for the perceived dimming. In reality they say the star’s brightness has diminished a normal amount.
This doesn’t explain all of the inconsistencies surrounding the star — there are still decidedly weird phenomena observed by the Kepler telescope from 2009-2013 related to the star’s light, but this news certainly will dull the hopes of those desperate to find some fellow intelligent beings in the universe. (The organization known as SETI, or Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, has already pointed telescopes at the star without so much as a hailing frequency to show for it.)
It might not be fun to hear something really exciting get crushed by the cold, hard reality of accurate research, but that’s the beauty of science — we can actually study the light of an object 8.7 quadrillion miles away.
What do you think? Aliens or no? Travel to our comments section below to tell us what you think.