Dyson Sphere Found? The KIC846252 Alien Megastructure

DS1 Several weeks ago it came to light that there was an oddity in the observation of star KIC846252 as observed by the Kepler telescope. This oddity was an unexpected dimming of the star, usually a telltale sign of exoplanets,  but it was different enough that a mere extrasolar planet was ruled out, as were several other natural explanations. This was something that hasn’t really been seen before, and from the start an alien megastructure (like a Dyson Sphere or Dyson array) was one of several things listed as possible causes for this unusual occurrence.

Given the distance, this potential object would belong to an alien civilization in the distant past, so an ancient alien structure if you will. Except in space, so even better than the average evidence presented on the “History” channel.

I was going to blog about this star straight away, but thought it prudent to wait a bit and see what shakes out. Even now, it’s still developing, but it warrants a spot here in the debunkatoreum.

What follows is a good demonstration as to how science happens, why scientific cover-ups would be difficult in many situations, and why those in power really aren’t afraid to consider aliens as a possibility. Frankly, if NASA found aliens, they’d likely shout it from the rooftops to get money to fund more missions. In fact, I’m surprised they haven’t claimed to have discovered aliens just to get funding, the fact that they haven’t tells me they wouldn’t want to lose their credibility when proved wrong as Richard Hoagland has been.

I digress.

This star first came to my attention in October with this article which references this article  in the Atlantic. In short, Kepler detected a star that was dimming, various natural causes were suggested, but those raised more questions than they answered, so more data was needed. Though more data was needed, a couple of the most likely theories were thrown to the public, presumably to drive public interest in astronomy. Comets were one theory, aliens the other. Even in suggesting aliens, the people working on the find are careful to note that they did not for sure find aliens, and that comets were the most likely culprit.

“Of course, these mystery transit events are nowhere near “proof” of an alien civilization. In fact, it’s barely evidence and a lot more work needs to be done.”

And comets.

“It might be a long shot, and the phenomenon is more likely a clump of comets or some other natural phenomenon that we haven’t accounted for blocking star light from view, but it’s worth investigating, especially if there really is some kind of alien intelligence building structures, or perhaps, ancient structures of a civilization long-gone, around a star only 1,500 light-years away from Earth.”

With this announcement, fringe speculation ensued, and most details that weren’t alluding to aliens were ignored or underemphasized. Not that aliens was accepted completely either.

Luckily though, the story continued to unfold. This is good to note because so often coincidence and conspiracy theorists often make the claim that when the possibility of aliens arises, scientists and similar folks turn the opposite direction out of fear or to maintain the status quo. This article published about 4 days after the first space.com article and about 6 days after the Atlantic one explains that further study of the star was commencing. That’s pretty quick turnaround, and demonstrates a zeal to get to the bottom of the mystery. So for being disinclined to investigate a likely case for aliens, THEY moved pretty quickly to look into it.

The search that occurred focused on finding radio, laser or other signals thought to best represent alien life, though the comet hypothesis held favor. Even the lead astronomer of SETI seemed to say it’s likely to have a natural explanation and to not get too excited about it, though he admitted it was worth investigating. SETI even looked into it, searching for the kinds of signals they search for, including lasers, has come up with nothing.

Here again, an organization looking into the possibility of aliens, SETI, investigating a possible alien presence because it looked like a solid candidate for aliens. If they found aliens, SETI would get SOOOO much funding, yet here they are saying this discovery is probably natural like pulsars (formerly thought to be alien broadcasts) turned out to be.

Some days later, a fluff piece comes out. It’s an entertaining read, discussing Dyson spheres and the possibility of harnessing the energy of an entire star. Star Trek, the Time Ships and Ringworld are all sci fi stories that have explored such a thing.  dyson-sphere-artist-2

A couple more days later, further development of the mystery is presented. This article demonstrates that the star will be observed via optical methods as well as for signals, hoping to catch the strange dimming in process  in the hopes of identifying the cause.

“Follow-up is proceeding on other fronts as well. A number of optical telescopes are watching the star, waiting for another multiday dimming event to take place. Once such an event begins, large scopes outfitted with spectrographs will swing into action, studying and monitoring the various wavelengths of light emanating from KIC 8462852, Wright said.

“That’ll tell us what that material is that the starlight is being filtered through,” he said. “It’ll tell us if maybe we’re looking at ordinary astrophysical dust; it’ll tell us if we’re looking at gas.”

” If we see any color dependence in the dimming — if it gets dimmer in the ultraviolet than it does in the infrared, for instance — then that would rule out that whatever we’re looking at is a solid object,” Wright added.

Wright thinks the data will eventually show that KIC 8462852’s dimming events are caused by dust. If that turns out to be the case, it would raise another mystery for astronomers to solve — namely, where all that dust is coming from. Is it being shed by exocomets, for example, or is the material trapped in a giant ring system around a Saturn-like alien planet?”

Spectrographs/spectroscopy, long time readers will recall, are able to use light to discern what something is made of by the colors and property of the light shining through our reflecting off of an object. That may be oversimplified, but that is my understanding of the basics. The results of of this analysis have not yet been completed, but in all likelihood it will be a natural phenomenon.

Even without these specific results, more than a month after being announced, it would seem the mystery was solved, though the megastructure isn’t completely off the table. Despite being open to the possibility, of aliens, new research sides with comets as the explanation.

“A team of astronomers led by Massimo Marengo of Iowa State University decided to follow up on Kepler’s work. They studied observations of KIC 8462852 made in January 2015 by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, which is optimized to view in infrared (heat) wavelengths of light.

Dust emits infrared light when it warms up, so an infrared signal coming from KIC 8462852 would suggest that a big cloud of the stuff — generated by an asteroid collision, perhaps, or a giant impact on a planet —exists in the system.

But Spitzer saw no such signal.

The lack of strong infrared excess 2 years after the events responsible for the unusual light curve observed by Kepler further disfavors the scenarios involving a catastrophic collision in a KIC 8462852 asteroid belt, a giant impact disrupting a planet in the system or a population of dust-enshrouded planetesimals,” Marengo and his colleagues wrote in the new study, which was published this month in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

The researchers instead suggest that a family of comets on a long, elliptical orbit might be responsible for the strange dimming of KIC 8462852. These comets or comet fragments may have blocked the star’s light in 2011 and 2013 (when the lagging members finally passed in front of the star from Kepler’s perspective), then moved off into deep space by the time Spitzer trained its heat-seeking eyes on the system in January 2015.”

After searching for interstellar gas and finding no sign of any in the infrared, the most plausible explanation was comets that are not visible any longer.

And this, so far, is all that is known about the mystery star.

To wrap up, the mystery surrounding KIC 8462852 is not yet solved, but the evidence for aliens and a Dyson sphere are slowly slipping away. No radio signals in the expected range have been found.  A completed Dyson sphere can be ruled out, because the star’s light is still visible, meanwhile a Dyson swarm would likely have a more consistent and ongoing disturbance in the star’s light.

The infrared signal of a planetary/other collision has not been detected, so that has been eliminated as a natural explanation.

All that’s really left is an under construction Dyson sphere and comets. The sphere is still a long shot, especially accounting for lack of radio signals, and so we are left really with comets. Comets which was given as the most likely explanation in one of the earliest articles, and where money would be if I was a betting man.

The other obvious takeaway from this whole affair is that those in the fields of science and astronomy are not afraid to consider the existence of aliens. Throughout this whole saga, aliens has been openly and transparently considered as a possibility, even amongst more likely natural explanations.

It’s also plain to see that it would be hard to cover up the existence in aliens in this case because several different groups of scientists have examined the claim. For there to be a cover up would require all of these people to keep quiet about what they’ve found. While that is possible, there seems to be no motive to do so, especially since they threw the alien hypothesis to the public from the beginning. Once the cause of the phenomenon is revealed, crying cover up will be kind of difficult.

And this is how science should, and mostly does work. Something is observed, it is examined (often by multiple parties) and then explanations are given. Those explanations are examined and ruled out, and then the most likely cause can be discerned.