Tabby’s star, or KIC 8462852, has been puzzling scientists for the last couple of years due to its strange behavior, but they now think they may have cracked the code.
Though the star was discovered in 1890, the light patterns and behaviors of it has made it more of an intriguing mystery over the past couple of years.
Some scientists theorized there was an alien megastructure on a nearby planet, harnessing the star’s light to create energy to sustain life there. To do so, it would mean that there is life in the universe more technically advanced than our own.
Another theory was that interstellar dust was periodically blocking the view of the star from Earth, making it appear dimmer at various intervals.
While the study of this particular star has intensified in the past two years, scientists also noted that between 1890 and 1989, the star had dimmed by 14%. However, that is nowhere near as impressive as the 22% drop in two days that the scientists recently noted.
During the observation period of 100 days, the star dimmed and went back to its original brightness over a dozen times.
To rule out the possibility of alien life, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute (SETI), went on a mission to see if any radio signals were coming from the star or nearby planets. Thus far, they haven’t been able to detect anything that would suggest intelligent life is using the star as an energy source.
The star’s most recent strange behavior was first noted by Dr. Tabetha Boyajian of Yale University.
She has concluded that the star is 1,300 light years away in the constellation Cygnus.
While the alien megastructure on a nearby planet theory could still hold water, scientists have come to a conclusion that is a bit more plausible.
Astronomers believe a planetary collision occurred 10,000 years ago.
During that time, the star bumped into one or more rocky Earth-like planets.
The star then absorbed the planet or planets, effectively eating them for dinner.
“Following an initial suggestion by Wright & Sigurdsson, we propose that the secular dimming behavior is the result of the inspiral of a planetary body or bodies into KIC 8462852, which took place ~ 10-104 years ago (depending on the planet mass).
Gravitational energy released as the body inspirals into the outer layers of the star caused a temporary and unobserved brightening, from which the stellar flux is now returning to the quiescent state.”
Scientists say that if all stars were observed with the same ferocity, they may find that many of them also exhibit similar dimming patterns.