Something Weird Is Happening to the 'Alien Megastructure' Star

As far as weird stars go, few are as strange as KIC 8462852, nicknamed Tabby's star. Tabby's star randomly dims and brightens for apparently no reason, which led some astronomers in 2015 to hypothesize that some sort of 'alien megastructure' was orbiting the star, occasionally blocking the light.

Other scientists proposed a large asteroid field or a swarm of comets instead, but we still don't really know what's going on.  All of that might be about to change. Early this morning, astronomers detected one of those characteristic dips that are unique to Tabby's star.


All of the other dips that we know of are from historical observations, but this one is happening right now, which gives astronomers a chance to really figure out what's happening.

But in order for that to happen, we need to point a telescope—or ideally several—in the direction of Tabby's star as soon as possible. This can be a challenge due to the way that telescope time is proportioned. Telescope time is usually scheduled months or years in advance, and it's not always easy to reschedule something at the last minute.

Tabby's Star has been dimming dramatically over the past few days.

If this were any other star, getting even one telescope at such short notice would be nearly impossible. But Tabby's star is not a normal star, and its behavior is such a puzzle that it's likely multiple telescopes will be able to fit in at least a few observations. 

The Swift space telescope has already scheduled multiple observations of the star at various times tomorrow, and a number of other telescopes around the world are likely going to squeeze in an observation or two and there's a good chance that with these new observations we'll finally be able to solve this puzzle at last.



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