Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Ringworld Engineers At Work [KIC8462852]

Star KIC8462852 is currently in the spotlight due to unexplained observations from the Kepler spaceprobe: one possible explanation for the pattern is an alien megastructure around the star. Here's that serious article by Phil Plait on why this is unlikely but not ridiculous.
Freeman Dyson and other astronomers suggested that alien civilizations might build giant structures around stars to make better use of space or materials, or to capture more of the star's energy using solar panels. This is a good scientific idea as it's testable - these structures should be detectable, as they would give themselves away through their interference with the light from their parent star. Science fiction writers have come up with many variations on the theme of alien megastructures, including Larry Niven's Ringworld.



SETI astronomers are planning to analyze KIC8462852 using a range of telescopes, looking for signals that might suggest the presence of technology. It's likely that over the next few months - perhaps by January - they will have a better answer as to whether this anomaly is artificial. In all honesty, the most likely outcome is that they find nothing of the sort - so let's enjoy the next few months while it's still possible to imagine that we're not alone in the universe. 


[illustrations by Sci-Fi Gene, created in Blender 2.7]

Just how alien are the constructors at KIC8462852, and what's the easiest way to communicate with them? Well, it turns out they do have a Twitter feed...


1 comment:

Dirk Bontes said...

I have published a brief astronomy article about this dimming star: "KIC 8462852 Solved"
https://goo.gl/ng7ey9