Ames, Iowa – An associate professor of physics and astronomy from Iowa State University, Massimo Marengo, investigated some facts surrounding the mysterious KIC 8462852. The distant star has been causing expectation among citizen scientists and researchers after a theory from a Yale University astronomer claimed a swarm of megastructures with solar panels to collect energy from the star. Marengo already declined alien theories.

In 2011, a new program conducted by NASA and Yale started. It encouraged citizen scientists and researchers to look at stars and planets around with data provided by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft. Volunteers remarked an unusual patron that occurred with KIC 8462852. As the highlighting measurements of the star indicated, its light dropped from 15 to 22 percent in just 800 days, which appeared to be a very uncommon phenomenon.

The odd light blips coming from the star might be caused by a family of comets or collision debris. Credit: NASA

It seemed that its light curves had incredibly irregular intervals. The thing that caused the dips could not have been a planet. A planet like Jupiter, which is 11.2 times larger than Earth and 2.5 times more massive than all the rest of the planets in the Solar System combined as Universe Today says, would only dim the enigmatic star by just 1 percent as it transmitted across.

Since the dips were remarked, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) institute has used its radio telescopes study the star, but they haven’t heard any radio signals expected from a supposed intelligent civilization. That being said, Marengo and two astronomers decided to take a look at the star using data taken with the Infrared Array Camera of NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. Results were published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters online.

“The scenario in which the dimming in the KIC 8462852 light curve were caused by the destruction of a family of comets remains the preferred explanation,” the three scientists, Marengo, Alan Hulsebus, an Iowa State doctoral student, and Sarah Willis, a former Iowa State graduate student now with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory said.

It seems that they did not even look for alien megastructures, but they did affirm that what the star is doing is very strange. Marengo addressed that when phenomena like that are found, it typically means there would be some new physical explanations or new concepts to be discovered.

Even when no trace of alien megastructures was found, the project that use data from the Kepler Telescope has already unmasked a few confirmed planets and at least several dozen more planet candidates. Volunteer planet hunters usually look for relevant drops in brightness that happen when a planet crosses in front of its sun.

The paper concluded something must be blocking the star’s light from the outside. The results would appear to show that a catastrophic crash in the asteroid belt or a giant collision that spewed debris into the solar system could be causing the dim. It would also appear that a family of comets orbiting KIC 8462852 had been disturbed by the passage of another nearby star. That scenario would have sent pieces of ice and rock flying inward, which would explain the dips and their irregularity.

“We may not know yet what’s going on around this star,” Marengo said. “But that’s what makes it so interesting.”

Source: The Astrophysical Journal Letters