Recent infrared observations of a star that once showed a pattern of weird dimming have turned up no anomalous readings, astronomers say – and that supports the view that a comet blitz rather than the construction of an alien megastructure was behind the earlier observations.
The latest evidence, laid out in a paper published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, isn’t exactly surprising. The passing of a shattered comet was seen as the leading orthodox explanation for the star KIC 8462852’s strange behavior.
But there was also the unorthodox explanation. The readings from the star, gathered by NASA’s Kepler space telescope and analyzed by a citizen-science project known as the Planet Hunters, created a stir because of a potential alien connection.
The starlight from KIC 8462852 dimmed dramatically – by as much as 22 percent – on an erratic schedule during the 2011-2013 time frame. Last month, Penn State astronomer Jason Wright said that pattern matched what might be expected if an advanced extraterrestrial civilization were to start building an enormous energy-harvesting structure around a star. Such structures, known as Dyson spheres, have been the subject of speculation for decades.