Last year, speculations of alien technology surrounding the star more commonly known as Tabby’s star went viral after a science group searching data from the Kepler space telescope found unusual light fluctuations from the area. At the time, we noted that the strange changes in light patterns were most likely definitely not aliens. They were probably caused by either asteroids or planets.
However, subsequent observations seemed to rule out both of the aforementioned.
The fluctuations, which take place over a 100-day period, show that something is blocking 20% of the star’s light, and that the object (objects?) responsible for it did not register any heat emission, ruling out natural space objects as probable cause.
To that end, several scientists speculated that an alien civilization had surrounded the star with something that may be like a Dyson sphere—a hypothetical structure envisioned by astronomer Freeman Dyson. In short, a Dyson sphere is a structure that an advanced civilization may use to collect solar power by building an enormous structure around the entire star, and we could then look for the dimming caused by the Dyson sphere to find the aliens.
However, scientists at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) used their Allen Telescope Array to check the area for radio signals, and they found no trace of an alien civilization. Now, Louisiana State University has published a study stating that there is no credible evidence that Tabby’s star has been steadily changing at all.
Different Lenses, Different Light Settings. Oops.
Vanderbilt doctoral student Michael Lund consulted his advisor, Professor of Physics and Astronomy Keivan Stassun, and a frequent collaborator, Lehigh University astronomer Joshua Pepper, to look into data from the Tabby’s star’s observation source—the Digital Access to a Sky Century at Harvard (DASCH), which utilized more than 500,000 different photographic glass plates between 1885 and 1993.
These images are being digitized by the university, and Lund suspects that the observations were nothing but imaging discrepancies. Lund says that the “dimming” of the star’s brightness was a mere inconsistency caused by switching between different telescopes and cameras, making the observations completely void.
“In this case, we looked at variations in the brightness of a number of comparable stars in the DASCH database and found that many of them experienced a similar drop in intensity in the 1960’s. That indicates the drops were caused by changes in the instrumentation not by changes in the stars’ brightness,” Stassun said.
So. No aliens? No dimming? It seems so.