If you look up long into the sky on a clear night you can see hundreds of twinkling stars. Scientists observe these fluctuations and light because they contain information about stars, such as their composition, distance, and age.
There is a one star 1400 light years away from Earth whose strange flickering has been baffling astronomers for years. They have been observing the star using the Kepler telescope and recently. a team of researchers have put out their best theories for this bizarre twinkle. One possibility could be alien life.
The Royal Astronomical Society has published a paper on the star this month. The star called Kic 486, is unusual because the specific light curve coming from the star has never been observed before. The brightness of the star has been watched over time and about 4 years ago there was a big dip in the brightness, as if something was blocking part of the light from the star. The star stayed constant for a few years before a series of sharp dips in brightness occurred again. When Kepler’s observations were checked there were no errors in the data. This puzzled astronomers and made them question why this star is different from the 150,000 others that Kepler has looked at.
The light curve doesn’t make sense when ideas inside the box are applied. Scientists are now applying ideas from outside the box to try and and figure out what is going on with Kic 486. One of the paper’s authors, Professor of Astronomy at Yale University Debra Fischer’s best guess is a swarm of something. The paper suggests a swarm of comets. Fisher thinks this is not the best solution since the dips in light are very deep, deeper than what you would normally see with comet-like material. Another idea is a breakup of a planet that collided with another.
All these ideas are testable and researchers are now gathering more data to which these ideas can be applied and tested. One astronomer Jason Wright, a Professor at Penn State, believes the source is a natural one. However, based on the current data he suggests it might also be an alien megastructure. Until the mystery is solved of what is in front of Kic 486, this might be a good candidate for alien life. Only time and data will tell.