Sciency Words: Tabby’s Star

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Today’s post is part of a special series here on Planet Pailly called Sciency Words. Each week, we take a closer look at an interesting science or science-related term to help us expand our scientific vocabularies together. Today’s term is:

TABBY’S STAR

Something’s wrong with a star named KIC 8462852. It flickers. It dims by as much as 22% for no apparent reason. This is an F-type main-sequence star, meaning it’s only a little bit larger than our Sun. F-type stars shouldn’t behave like this.

KIC 8462852 is sometimes called the WTF Star, because of the paper that first described its abnormal fluctuations in brightness. That paper was subtitled “Where’s the Flux?”

The star is also known (and perhaps better known) as Tabby’s Star, in honor of Tabetha Boyajian, the lead author on that paper.

There are several possible explanations for what might be happening to Tabby’s Star, but it’s the least likely explanation that’s gotten the most hype. Could it be aliens? SETI decided to check it out. They didn’t find anything. But still… it could be aliens.

Massive alien starships might be transiting the star, blocking some of its light. Or perhaps there are enormous space stations orbiting the star. Or maybe we’ve caught an advanced alien civilization in the act of building some kind of megastructure (like a Dyson sphere) completely encircling their sun.

Most professional astronomers do not think it’s aliens. Tabetha Boyajian herself doesn’t seem to take the idea seriously and often jokes about the crazy emails she gets from people who do. And to be perfectly clear, I do not take this alien megastructure hypothesis seriously either.

But just to be sure, I’ve decided to hop into my imaginary spaceship and fly out to KIC 8462852, just so I can see for myself what’s really going on. Wish me luck! I’ll let you know what I find next week.

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5 Responses to Sciency Words: Tabby’s Star

  1. Scott Levine says:

    Great post. I love reading about that star
    All the ideas, theories and conspiracies about it are great to read about. Love the puzzle of it all. They’ll figure it out sooner or later, but wouldn’t it be something if, this time, we can point to a spot in the sky and say “well, that’s where the life is.” It’s not likey, as you say, but i like to imagine.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. […] I’ve flown my spaceship all the way out to KIC 8462852, better known as Tabby’s Star, and what do you know? The aliens really are building a megastructure out […]

    Like

  3. […] of the sky has been photographed before. So following the publication of Tabetha Boyajian’s WTF paper, astronomer Bradley Schaefer started checking those old photographic […]

    Like

  4. […] been over a month since my trip to KIC 8462852, better known as Tabby’s Star. And yes, my trip was totally for real. I was actually there and saw the alien megastructure for […]

    Like

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