The unusual patterns observed coming from a distant star might actually be the result of a large construction project by an extraterrestrial civilization, scientists believe.
It wasn’t the first theory, a story in The Atlantic notes.
The pattern could be caused by a natural phenomenon, but the odds are, well, astronomical.
“We’d never seen anything like this star,” Yale postdoctoral student Tabetha Boyajian told The Atlantic. “It was really weird. We thought it might be bad data or movement on the spacecraft, but everything checked out.”
The Kepler Space Telescope has observed unusual dips in the light coming from the star located between the Cygnus and Lyra constellations in the northern hemisphere, perplexing both the professional observers and a group of citizen scientists who helped discover them.
The scientists say that the dips are scattered as you might find in a younger star where the debris around it has not yet coalesced. But other evidence suggests this lacks key indicators of a young star.
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Conversely the star’s light doesn’t have the normal patterns of a mature star.
The only theory of a natural cause would be if another star had passed through the star’s system and pulled a large number of comets inward.
That would be an “extraordinary coincidence,” The Atlantic noted, since it would have had to have happened recently enough that the comets did not yet form into planets or get sucked into the star. Such an event has never before been observed.
Penn State astronomer Jason Wright is taking up the theory it is a massive number of megastructures to collect solar energy from the star.
“Aliens should always be the very last hypothesis you consider, but this looked like something you would expect an alien civilization to build,” he said.
Boyajian, Wright and Andrew Siemion, director of the SETI Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, want to point a large radio dish at the star to see if radio waves that would be associated with technology can be found.