Last month, our planet-hunting telescope Kepler found a very weird star. It wasn’t twinkling right. When looking for planets outside of our solar system, Kelpler searches for stars that dim periodically. If the dimming is regular, it could be a planet blocking the light every time it orbits its star. But though the star system that Kepler found last month—KIC 8462852—was dimming, the change in light was irregular. The explanation that got the most press was that gigantic alien structures accounted for the odd dips in light.
Well, we have finally checked out star system KIC 8462852, and unfortunately, we didn’t find any Death Stars or Dyson spheres.
The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute is dedicated to investigating the possibility of other forms of life in the universe. Yesterday, SETI announced that they had concluded an initial investigation of the radiation coming from the star system and so far, it seems we are still alone in the universe.
To look for life, SETI aimed the 42 antennas of its Allen Telescope Array at the weird star for over two weeks. They were searching for signals we assume that intelligent life—or structures harnessing an incredible amount of power from a star—would put out. For example, if aliens were trying to contact other civilizations, they might beam out narrow-band signals or “hailing frequencies.” Or, if spacecraft propelled by microwaves are zooming around megastructures (an oddly specific assumption), we could catch the radiation that spills over with the SETI antennae.
As far as SETI could tell, no aliens from KIC 8462852 are trying to open a channel with us or propel service spacecraft. “Analysis of the Array data show no clear evidence for either type of signal between the frequencies of 1 and 10 GHz,” the team writes, referring to both narrow-band radio and broad-band microwave emissions. Whatever is causing the odd dips in light around this star, it is more likely to be debris than E.T.
Though there is no alien signature around KIC 8462852 that we can decipher, it doesn’t mean there aren’t aliens there. It’s unlikely given the other possible explanations for Kepler’s observations, but aliens could be building a civilization without trying to signal anyone, or be using different frequencies to communicate. It was at least worth a look.
“The history of astronomy tells us that every time we thought we had found a phenomenon due to the activities of extraterrestrials, we were wrong,” said Institute astronomer and study author Seth Shostak. “But although it’s quite likely that this star’s strange behavior is due to nature, not aliens, it’s only prudent to check such things out.”
What do you think, though? Let us know in the comments below.