Have We Discovered An Alien Civilization? Here’s Everything You Need To Know.

Some of the more… excitable elements of the pop-science blogosphere are in a tizzy today about KIC 8462852, a star about 1,500 light years from Earth showing off some strange behavior. They’re arguing it’s proof we’ve found aliens. It probably isn’t, but it’s definitely worth knowing about.

So what’s the big deal?

KIC, as we’ll call it for brevity, is weird even by celestial body standards. Astronomers measure the brightness of stars; if the brightness dips by, say, 1 percent, and it does that on a regular basis, that’s a good sign a planet is orbiting a star. KIC has seen dips in brightness of 15 percent to 22 percent. It’s also irregular, just to make things stranger, and there are hundreds of dips.

Did we mention that to block that much light, this object would have to be about half the size of KIC? So essentially something half the size of a star is moving at random back and forth in front of it.

Uh, did they clean the lens?

They did. They’ve ruled out human error, equipment malfunction, and all the obvious stuff scientists go to when they find some wacky result that makes no sense. They’ve also ruled out possibilities like planetary collision and sunspots.

Half the size of a star? Are we about to be invaded by the Empire?

Even the authors of the report on this star are wondering that. One of their theories, which even they think is extremely unlikely, is that the light is being blocked by non-celestial objects, possibly a construct being built around the star called a Dyson sphere.

So they’re not saying it’s aliens, but it’s aliens?

They’re not saying it’s aliens at all. Instead the point is that they’ve got no freakin’ idea what’s going on and that saying we’ve just discovered alien life is as sensible a theory as any at this point. Currently there’s a request in to use a radio telescope to scan KIC and see what we pick up. No matter what, though, it’s a reminder that the universe is a gloriously weird place.

(Via Blastr)