back to article 'Alien megastructure' Tabby's Star: Light is definitely dimming

We might have thought that the long-term dimming of “alien megastructure” star, Tabby's Star, had been put to rest as a calibration error, but boffins now reckon its mysterious dimming can be seen in Kepler data. That, the boffins who checked back four years' worth of observations from the Kepler mission, puts the dimming of …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    What about a nebula drifting through ?

    I am absolutely certain scientists have thought about this, but I can't help thinking that a nebula of varying thickness might be able to explain this.

    Of course, I doubt we'd have any way of confirming that. Then again, we know that there is dust between us and the center of the galaxy, and we can still get images in certain wavelengths, so maybe they've already checked and there's no chance of a nebula lurking in that specific region.

    Still, I think a nebula would be possible.

    1. psychonaut

      Re: What about a nebula drifting through ?

      is it maybe an energy saving star? like a compact flourescant bulb. maybe it just takes a while to actually put out any light.

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: What about a nebula drifting through ?

      For the nebula, you would look at nearby stars (next to the "dimming cat" in space & on the pixel array) to see whether they exhibit similar effects.

      A quick eyeballing of the paper reveals that npo such effects are being observed

      Somebody may be cleaning up the neighborhood ...

      1. Kane Silver badge
        Alien

        Re: What about a nebula drifting through ?

        "Somebody may be cleaning up the neighborhood ..."

        The Inhibitors are coming...

        1. Graham Marsden
          Coat

          Re: What about a nebula drifting through ?

          If so, they obviously haven't built themselves a Feersum Endjinn!

        2. 0laf Silver badge

          Re: What about a nebula drifting through ?

          Are the stars turning green over there?

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galactic_North

    3. Neil B

      Re: What about a nebula drifting through ?

      Surely a nebula would emit other energies that we could detect.

  2. Scott Broukell

    Are they sure it isn't one of those new fangled energy-saving stars, you know, just never works quite as intended nor as brightly as one of yer normal incandescent ones? Or, maybe it's hooked up to the Smart Energy App of <insert omnipotent deity's> smart phone?

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge
      Alien

      Or maybe someone is playing with the dimmer on the light switch?

  3. Andrew Commons

    A plain old peculiar

    Peculiar variables exist and are documented.

    See for example: http://www.starman.co.uk/variables/types/peculiar/pecstars.htm

    Do we need to get more complicated than this?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A plain old peculiar

      Or we could just put it down to "magic" or "aliens".....where's the sense of curiosity?

      Phenomenon that can't be explained by the known facts and theories are the best things ever. An opportunity to do actual science.

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: A plain old peculiar

      I think it was a "plain old peculiar" somebody might have noticed by now.

      Looks like this kind of approach is classed under "explaining away" or "under-carpetting". This was well explained in Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (which does not quite match how things happen, which is actually rather meta-meta).

      I particularly like this "First of all, the object in question may be a genuine "one off", or it may prove to be a member of a new or existing class of variable.". So it's peculiar because ... it's peculiar. Move along, nothing to see here.

  4. Yesnomaybe

    The star could be exhibiting some kind of long-lived sunspot (OK, OK pedants: "starspot") activity.

    Boring, I know...

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Generally stars rotate, so unless the sunspot is covering the entire star, we'd expect to see a periodic brightening and dimming, not a prolonged dimming.

      Either way, it's doing something we've not seen before, which makes it interesting.

  5. David Roberts Silver badge
    Alien

    Light sails?

    Is the fleet already on the way?

    Alternatively, are they having intermittent shortfall in their solar wind power?

  6. Harry the Bastard
    Happy

    cat nap

    obligatory text

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    With us for neighbours

    Who'd blame them?

  8. Milton Silver badge

    If this continues ...

    ... without good explanation, I do hope someone names it "Pandora's Star".

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: If this continues ...

      Surely, it must be The Mote in God's Eye.

      The light sail of the Motie ship is just obscuring more of the star as it gets further out, and the rapid change was the planet-based propulsion lasers being turned off.

  9. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
    Alien

    Aliens

    Really low bitrate morse code

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What is important is what was not said ...

    I think it is important to note the phrase that "no known effect" could explain the observations. The obvious conclussion is that it might be something unknown and new to science. This is excatly the sort of thing that science is built on - find something that cannot be explained by "known science", then come up with a coherent way of explaining it.

    On another note I cannot buy the idea of a Dyson Sphere; they (along with ring worlds) are intrinsically unstable (Larry Niven gave a good explanation in "Ringworld Engineers"). A Dyson Swarm is much more likely; in fact a partially completed swarm that occupies only a fraction of the available orbital slots could explain the observations.

    1. PNGuinn
      Coat

      Re: What is important is what was not said ...

      Or a Henry or Hetty?

      If it's a Dyson Swarm shirley you'd be able to HEAR the buggers from Earth?

      Enquiring minds etc ...

      Mine's the one with ear ear muffs in the pocket

      1. breakfast

        Re: What is important is what was not said ...

        They say there is no sound in a vacuum, which may explain why there is so much outside a Dyson...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: What is important is what was not said ...

          Yeah, a Dyson Sphere in your offices would probably mean the end of your eardrums!

    2. Jez Burns

      Re: What is important is what was not said ...

      I like that thought. It's possible in this scenario that the swarm might not be built by an alien civilisation to harness power for their technology, but built by itself to harness power for itself.

      What do self replicating machines do when they've replicated to the point that exhausted their fuel source? Better pull down the blinds..

  11. sawatts

    Spectrum?

    Any information on whether the star's spectrum has changed along with overall brightness?

  12. Lee D Silver badge

    The Dyson sphere thing just baffles me.

    Why building a huge super-structure around a star, at a distance safe enough to live for the foreseeable future, which is covered on the inside by energy-gathering whatevers, and has living space throughout is some "end game" goal for a civilisation, I can't fathom.

    Hey, look, we spent all our resources and billions upon billions upon billions of tons of raw material - 2.83×10^17 square kilometers of surface area alone, equivalent to millions of planets or thousands of suns worth of material, more than everything available in the solar system around such a star - tied it all into one humungous spherical structure, with a radius something like Earth's distance from the Sun, put all our people inside it, covered it in energy-sucking materials and now we all live in a vast, empty spherical box until the star inside starts acting funny from not being able to radiate as it might normally, for a few hundred thousand years (probably longer than it takes to build the thing) until the star starts acting differently or bulges or something and wipes us out. Not including that we have to somehow keep that centered on the star with propulsion as it's effective average gravity towards teh star inside it would be zero.

    Rather than bugger off, live on other planets around other stars, and use a comparative pittance (still huge amounts, but comparatively nothing) of energy to fuel the mission there in the first place.

    Literally the scale is so vastly infeasible I don't get why it even gets mention in things like this. If you have anywhere near that amount of material, energy and capability, the last thing you're going to want to do is hedge your bets and sit round the campfire for the rest of your existence, even if one side of your house gets nice sunshine without clouds and the other has a perfectly dark view of the night sky.

    Even as purely an energy collector, it's ridiculous. Looking for it as an explanation is even more ridiculous.

    Not to mention, Drake's equation - the chance of observing THAT EXACT MOMENT of someone building this ridiculous structure (rather than it not being built yet, it being already built, or it already having blown to pieces long ago) is basically zero.

    1. You Are Not Free

      If you could actually build a dyson sphere, why at all would you need to?

      1. cray74

        If you could actually build a dyson sphere, why at all would you need to?

        We're at a point where our command of energy allows us to level mountains, shape rivers, light cities, and produce a material abundance unknown earlier in human history. Do we need that power?

        Well, currently, humanity uses machines with engines as powerful as all the mechanical horsepower in one of the 18th Century US colonies to expediently, affordably cross oceans for a frolic in the sun and sand. Sometimes apparently with direct beach delivery.

        So, what about a more advanced civilization? How many terawatts of solar power does it take to boost a starship to a nearby star system? How many petawatts are needed to strip mine Ceres-sized asteroids into millions of giant space habitats for trillions of space dwellers? How much power is needed to manufacture anti-matter for their system-spanning transportation network? That star isn't doing anything useful with most of its core fuel except lighting up the universe, which is sort of futile. Might as well throw some solar panels around it.

        Do they need that power? Could they - or we - have stayed in eco-friendly mud huts and used sustainable biofuels like our ancestors? Sure. But I like my nuclear-powered air conditioner, overpowered car (yes, midlife issues), and the option to fly into St. Maarten to get drunk and go "woooo!" at airplanes passing low enough to decapitate me. That takes lots more power than my ancestors had. Maybe the aliens like their anti-matter fueled personal spaceships and personal O'Neill colonies. That takes more energy than us.

        Or maybe the dimming is something more mundane, like run amok von Neumann constructors who have eaten their makers and are now eating the solar system but really don't need all that power. It'll be a while before we can be sure.

        1. BoldMan

          Or its designed to keep something inside... MorningLightMountain...

          1. NomNomNom

            You only need a Dyson sphere if you can't control your population size. Which is surely an absurd flaw for a highly developed civilisation to have. Unless there's some kind of moral imperative to bring as many sentient beings as possible into existence, there's just no need for an entire Suns worth of output.

            Population capped at 1 million, fusion reactors and everyone plugged into a sim world. You'd only need an area the size of London for your civilisation and could probably set it up in the midst of the void away from dangerous things like stars and planets.

            1. Dave 126 Silver badge

              >You only need a Dyson sphere if you can't control your population size.

              You only need to control your population size if your living habitat is limited.

              As it is today, in developed countries with good healthcare, female education and access to contraception, birth rates are fairly close to death rates. But hey, maybe aliens with extended life spans might rear several hatchlings to maturity over their lifetimes, just for the joy of having the young ones around.

              >Which is surely an absurd flaw for a highly developed civilisation to have. Unless there's some kind of moral imperative to bring as many sentient beings as possible into existence,

              You're second-guessing the ethics of a highly advanced civilisation? It's not unreasonable that a civilisation will see nothing wrong with converting sterile space rock into living space.

            2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

              Well, I'd say that we are a highly developed civilisation, and look at all the absurd flaws we have... Being highliy developed and still act irrational isn't mutually exclusive; every single one of us is living proof to that.

              So even a civilisation that has the means to build a Dyson sphere might be doing just that because they are religious nuts. Or lost a bet. Or want to impress their neighbours. Hey, imagine - keeping up with the Joneses on that level, there might be a good story in this.

        2. DougS Silver badge

          Building a Dyson sphere (or swarm)

          Sure it takes a lot of resources, but if you get to that point, everything is automated. You have a machine that builds machines, and those machines do all the work while you sit back and do whatever a Type II civilization does with all that free time. Maybe the civilization is all machines at that point, and the meatbags died off or left long ago, who knows. You don't care how long it takes, because you are likely immortal, for all practical purposes, when you reach that level of advancement whether you are machine or biological organism.

          I'm not sure why you'd need to put it at Earth distance - it isn't like you will be living on the surface. You might put it at Mercury distance to save material. And you can get that material from your own solar system. Hell, bust up Mercury, Venus and Mars if you need more material. But it could be very thin, basically orbiting solar panels with a way of getting the power to go where it needs to go. Sure it won't last forever, but our sun isn't going to go red giant for 5 billion years, that would allow for a pretty good ROI on the investment to build such a megastructure! And if it is a swarm rather than a sphere, it would be quite feasible to move it to another star if the first one went past its sell by date - though it is probably easier to send your machines ahead to build another one and only move yourself when it is complete.

          As for why you'd need the power of an entire star, well that's not something we can comment on any more than a fly could comment on why humanity needs the amount of power it is using now. Whether they want to run a simulation of the universe or it is to power some unknown piece of tech we don't even think is possible like time travel or teleportion to another galaxy, obviously you'd have some sort of goal in mind for what you'd do with a star's power. It wouldn't matter if their population was 900 trillion or 900,000, if the desire for that much power was something that served their whole race.

      2. Sam Haine

        If you could actually build a Dyson sphere...

        ...you'd build an Eye of Harmony instead.

    2. Kris

      >> Not to mention, Drake's equation - the chance of observing THAT EXACT MOMENT of someone building this ridiculous structure (rather than it not being built yet, it being already built, or it already having blown to pieces long ago) is basically zero

      Depends how many stars you have to observe... And you only need to get lucky once.

      Also, do you not think that a civilisation capable of building such a structure might have a pretty good understanding of the inner workings and life-cycle of the star they are targeting? And do you not think that they might have needs or motived which escape you?

      Just because it's probably not, doesn't mean you/we know anything at this stage.

    3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Why building a huge super-structure around a star,

      The idea came from science-fiction. It's not supposed to be feasible, it's supposed to be awesome. It is supposed to mean that the civilization that built it had so much more resources that they decided to do it for kicks. It's supposed to demonstrate just how powerful the civilization that built it is.

      They wouldn't use up all the resources of the system that the star is in, they would use up five or six start systems - because they could. It's the hipster solution to energy gathering.

    4. cray74

      Even as purely an energy collector, it's ridiculous. Looking for it as an explanation is even more ridiculous.

      Taking your assumptions for granted, yes, but you rather overestimated the mass required.

      Hey, look, we spent all our resources and billions upon billions upon billions of tons of raw material - 2.83×10^17 square kilometers of surface area alone, equivalent to millions of planets or thousands of suns worth of material, more than everything available in the solar system around such a star

      The original Dyson sphere posited using many independently orbiting solar collectors, not a true continuous shell. At your suggested area, simple solar cells (mostly aluminum or an oxide with thin film silicon cells) forming panels 1mm thick would require a mass of 8.5x10^20 kilograms - a bit over 1% of Luna's mass. If you pardon the sci-fi reference, this page gives an overview of the classic Dyson "sphere" and some hypothetical variants.

      Obviously, shifting to lighter sub-millimeter foils like solar sails both reduces mass requirements further and gives the individual swarm elements maneuverability. The latter would allow stabilization of the collectors against gravitational influences found elsewhere in the system, like all the planets you didn't need to disassemble.

      (At least not disassembled for the system's power plant. There are a lot of interesting things to do with spare planets once you have the full power of a star handy and a demonstrated ability to mine and process lunar-scale masses into engineered structures.)

      the star inside starts acting funny from not being able to radiate as it might normally,

      The star's going to radiate almost normally, it just added an extra step in the process: first its light warms the solar collection swarm (to about 300K for a low-albedo collector at 1AU from a G2V star), and then the collectors' temperature stabilizes by radiating from its back side. Minus the energy diverted by the solar collection process, the star's power still get into deep space but using a 2AU diameter radiator while the low albedo means you won't reflect too much back at the star.

      The stellar surface might warm up a bit from reflection and the 300K radiator engulfing it, but it's sitting at an advantageous end of the black body curve: radiated power follows the fourth power of temperature. A little bump in surface power will be rapidly reach equilibrium.

    5. Dave 126 Silver badge

      >Literally the scale is so vastly infeasible I don't get why it even gets mention in things like this.

      Because scientists have a sense of humour. The Dyson Sphere concept can be safely used a placeholder, since no one will mistake it as a serious explanation (without extraordinary evidence). 'Tabby's Star' is also refereed to as the 'WTF? Star' (Where's the Flux?), which again signposts the researchers interest. Similarly, the signal that originally lead to the discovery of pulsars was jokingly known as LGM-1 - 'Little Green Men'.

    6. Dave 126 Silver badge

      >Why building a huge super-structure around a star, at a distance safe enough to live for the foreseeable future, which is covered on the inside by energy-gathering whatevers, and has living space throughout is some "end game" goal for a civilisation, I can't fathom.

      The end game is to waste as little available energy as possible, so as to allow the maximum amount of consciousness. As a sci-fi trope, the idea is speculation about factors that limit a population's continual growth.

      Similarly, Iain M Bank's 'Orbitals' concept - a descendant of Niven's 'Ringworlds' but more modest in scale - is based around the idea of providing as much human-habitable area for as little matter as possible. Banks would be the first to admit that he was a fiction writer, so let's ignore the need for impossibly strong materials and radiation-shielding force-fields etc.

    7. Paul Smith

      Drakes equation and statistics

      >>>Not to mention, Drake's equation - the chance of observing THAT EXACT MOMENT of someone building this ridiculous structure (rather than it not being built yet, it being already built, or it already having blown to pieces long ago) is basically zero.

      Yes it's a long shot, but is it exactly a million to one yet?

    8. Captain DaFt

      Taking a different tack with the alien hypothesis.

      Interstellar travel is hard, really hard to do in any organic lifeform's time frame.

      So you've got a stable civilization, no where else can readily get to/communicate with in a usable time frame, aside from an occasional colony ship.

      How do you preserve yourself long term? Stellar engineering.

      Red dwarves last magnitudes longer than larger stars, so you siphon off enough mass to reduce your star to a red dwarf and greatly increasing it's life span.

      Use all that hydrogen you draw off to power things like moving your world inward to the new habitable zone, terraforming, or even creating, new habitable worlds in the new zone, or even build a colony world fleet big enough to carry everybody and their future offspring to another star when this one fails.

      All this is going to take centuries, if not thousands of years, and the machinery involved isn't going to be small, and the orbiting clouds of by-products, raw materials, new construction, whatever, isn't going to be small either.

      (Probably on the scale of when the Mark I sunsucker becomes obsolete, you just start terraforming it, or converting it into a colony ship.)

      But it's probably only just a poorly fusioning star, and not aliens, too bad. :(

    9. Wilseus

      "...we have to somehow keep that centered on the star with propulsion as it's effective average gravity towards teh star inside it would be zero."

      I think I read somewhere that a Dyson sphere would be orbitally stable, unlike a "more, but still not very feasible Larry Niven-style Ringworld."

    10. rdhood

      "Not to mention, Drake's equation - the chance of observing THAT EXACT MOMENT of someone building this ridiculous structure (rather than it not being built yet, it being already built, or it already having blown to pieces long ago) is basically zero."

      Maybe, but observing THIS phenomenon over 4 years, 1480 ly removed, seemed impossible just 20 years ago. IMHO, this aspect of Drake's equation (the odds of seeing something in the sky as it happens being "basically zero") is dead.

    11. Katie Saucey
      Alien

      Spoil sport.

  13. smartypants

    Loose wiring

    I had this problem with one of our lights too. A screwdriver fixed it.

    The heavens take a lot of maintenance. All those bulbs. Some blow from time to time or slowly fade and need replacing. Getting to them is hard without a big ladder.

    God used to be on top of it before Adam and Eve disappointed him by falling into his sneaky talking snake trap. This week he was doing an interview at Revelation TV. It's all go!

  14. IsJustabloke Silver badge
    Coat

    Stars are mostly big burny things right?

    Don't all burny things get a bit dimmer as they run out of fuel? Not things like gas cookers of course I'm thinking more of your old log fire / bbq type burny thing.

    Perhaps the scientists are trying to hard to avoid a simple explanation. Given the amount of time the light takes to reach us I'd have thought a gradual effect would be exactly what you'd see?

    But I am not an astronomer /astrophysicist but just maybe I'm the "normal guy" who points out the obvious to all the smart guys :D

    1. You Are Not Free

      Re: Stars are mostly big burny things right?

      Depends on the star, some stars get smaller, hotter and therefore brighter as they age.

      Source - http://www.astronomy.ohio-state.edu/~pogge/Ast162/Unit2/mainseq.html

    2. cray74

      Re: Stars are mostly big burny things right?

      Don't all burny things get a bit dimmer as they run out of fuel? Not things like gas cookers of course I'm thinking more of your old log fire / bbq type burny thing.

      Stars tend to follow a more complicated route. While they're on the "main sequence" - the longest part of their life when they fuse hydrogen into helium in their core - they gradually get a bit brighter. This is because the core builds up helium, and helium is denser than hydrogen, so the core can be more compact, denser, and hotter, which are conditions to fuse hydrogen faster. It's like a bonfire getting hotter because more of its fuel is burning at once as the fire proceeds.

      At the end of the main sequence, a star runs out of hydrogen fuel in the core. Without new heat to keep the giant gas ball inflated, it begins to collapse. The pressure in the core reaches the point where helium can fuse, and helium fuses more energetically. The star will puff up into a red giant, which is a tumultuous time (millions of years long) but eventually it starts shining in a stable fashion as a red giant - much bigger and brighter than the old main sequence form, though ironically cooler and less massive. The transition to red giant can involve dimming, but it takes a long time to happen.

      This star appears to be in the main sequence, a bright yellow-white F3V star. A sudden change like this is not going to be due to a fuel shortage.

      1. LosD

        Re: Stars are mostly big burny things right?

        Not to mention that 0.3% dimming every year doesn't at all match phases that have time scales of millions of years.

        1. rdhood

          Re: Stars are mostly big burny things right?

          "Not to mention that 0.3% dimming every year doesn't at all match phases that have time scales of millions of years."

          Exactly. It doesn't match ANYTHING that we know about the physics of stars or their burnout. Someone mentioned the Drake equation, and that the odds of observing a civilization in realtime would be near zero. IMHO, this is no longer true. It could be that these "star dimming" things happen all of the time, but we never before had the computer power or observational equipment to detect them in real time. Think about supernovas... it use to be weeks/months/years before someone noticed a star going supernova. Now, we sometimes detect these things WITHIN HOURS/DAYS. Drake fail.

  15. You Are Not Free

    ALIENS!

    It's just part of the narrative that despite there being NO scientific evidence WHAT SO EVER for extra terrestrial life, intelligent or otherwise, we are of course about to discover it.

    Out of the untold trillions of stars out there, one flickers in a way we have not yet observed....So it must be a Dyson Sphere....HAH! As if! Get real.

    Not even a scrap of lichen clinging to life on the back of a rock on Mars.

    Total electromagnetic silence in space apart from the clicking of quasars and the humming of stars.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: ALIENS!

      This is now a "narrative"?

      Go back to the US-internal political bickering, please.

      1. You Are Not Free
        Thumb Up

        Re: ALIENS!

        "This is now a "narrative"?

        Go back to the US-internal political bickering, please."

        The world is run on ideology based narratives, in case you hadn't noticed.

    2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: ALIENS!

      Total electromagnetic silence in space apart from the clicking of quasars and the humming of stars.

      Pretty much. If an alien civilisation follows the pattern of humanity in its technological progression (and there's no real reason why we're not pretty average and statistically we'd have to meet quite a few alien life forms to work out what may be a fair average) from the discovery of radio to primitive spaceflight and computers then there is only a very, very small time window that an alien civilisation will be recklessly broadcasting to the universe.

      During this time window the relative power of the broadcasts will be pretty low and therefore should an observer happen to be watching at the appropriate time, the detection of the signals will be very, very hard due to their low power. After this window then efficiencies in broadcast techniques tend to make the wasteage considerably lower even as the effectiveness goes up - this is down to narrower bands and directional communications which overall require somewhat less power. We're probably not quite at the "quiet" stage of our galactic EM emission development but we're fairly close.

      1. strum Silver badge

        Re: ALIENS!

        >there's no real reason why we're not pretty average

        We (21st century humanity) aren't even average humans. For most of our existence, we've barely made the sound of two rocks banging together. In 100 years we might be emitting nothing more than an encrypted barrage of light waves, having abandoned radio entirely. In a 1000 years?, 10,000?

    3. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: ALIENS!

      >Out of the untold trillions of stars out there, one flickers in a way we have not yet observed....So it must be a Dyson Sphere....HAH! As if! Get real.

      You have so missed the point. Astronomers don't believe there is a Dyson Sphere, and they know that their colleagues don't believe so, either. Therefore, their use of the Dyson Sphere concept is just a fun way of signposting to their community that they have some interesting unexplained data on their hands.

      Just to make things clear to you: Jocelyn Grace Bell didn't really believe that there were Little Green Men sending messages when she recorded the signals that lead to the discovery of pulsars, even though she joked that the alien buggers were sending signals purely to mess her PhD research up.

      RAF technicians never really believed in Gremlins. It was a joke.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: ALIENS!

        You have so missed the point. Astronomers don't believe there is a Dyson Sphere, and they know that their colleagues don't believe so, either.

        Then suddenly there is a Dyson Sphere and everyone will be shitting bricks while placing a call to the POTofthefreeworld.

  16. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Pandora's star

    Erecting the shield to contain the Prime civilization around Dyson Alpha is taking longer then usual. Probably unionized contractors at work.

    1. Nicholas Nada

      Re: Pandora's star

      From now on, all Dyson Sphere workers must be ionized.

      1. Charlie van Becelaere
        Thumb Up

        Re: Pandora's star

        "From now on, all Dyson Sphere workers must be ionized."

        I was going to ask what the charge would be, but so far it's all positive. Well done, sir!

  17. David Pollard

    0.341 percent less each year

    This sheds a new light on cosmic inflation.

  18. Banksy

    Secureteam10

    That young, excitable chap from secureteam10 will love this. Aliens: confirmed.

  19. Chicken Marengo
    Alien

    Rising energy prices

    They aliens just can't put the 50p coins in the meter fast enough any more

  20. Sampler

    Blackhole?

    I'd guess they'd see the wavelengths it outputs, but if it was a binary system who's partner collapsed (or it's galactic path run it into a pothole) it could be a blackhole slowly sucking the life out of it, causing it to dim?

    (though I guess that doesn't account for the dramatic dip, possibly oribted closer, so rate of decay increased?)

    Either that or Galactus having a snack...

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Blackhole?

      it could be a blackhole slowly sucking the life out of it, causing it to dim?

      The accretion disk around either a black hole or a neutron star would probably be very noticeable. We've seen plenty of examples, so while a new configuration isn't impossible it's very unlikely that the astronomers involved haven't already looked into the possibility.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Blackhole?

      > it could be a blackhole slowly sucking the life out of it, causing it to dim?

      Sounds like my ex-wife!

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Childcatcher

    alien life ... obviously

    Well not obviously in any way... but this would be the way we will first meet aliens, not because they found our probes with the weird crosswords (all that stuff printed that the average human couldn't figure out let alone a non-human).

    We'll find an anomaly and gradually we will realise it is not naturally occurring ... we'll do little probes and over some time there will be theories that it is made by intelligent life.

    definitely not some reck neck getting and anal probe in the woods :)

  22. MrNed
    Alien

    Cricket

    Some of the peoples of Earth indulge in the game of cricket. As you will know, this game formed from the inherited consciousness of millennia long past, recalling the events of the Krikkit Wars. When the violent and warlike Krikkiters were finally defeated, it was decided to seal the planet Krikkit away within a Slo-Time Envelope so that the Krikkiters would no longer be a nuisance.

    http://hitchhikers.wikia.com/wiki/Krikkit

    Perhaps a similar thing is going on here?

  23. Measurer
    Mushroom

    Obiwan Hawkings: "That's no star. It's a space station." Alan Guth: "It's too big to be a space station." Michio Kaku: "I have a very bad feeling about this."

  24. Ironclad

    OCP

    Obligatory Banks (damn, I miss him) quote:

    Outside Context Problem (OCP), the kind of problem "most civilizations would encounter just once, and which they tended to encounter rather in the same way a sentence encountered a full stop."

  25. Justicesays
    Coat

    Photino birds

    Time to evacuate the universe.

    1. DropBear Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Photino birds

      ...but... but... but... it's already full of vacuum!

  26. tony72

    Starkiller Base

    Haven't these people seen The Force Awakens? Obviously the star is dimming because it is being sucked dry to power a fearsome, planet destroying superweapon. Unfortunately we probably don't have a telescope powerful enough to see the disappearing planets the weapon is being used against, so I guess we'll just have to figure out how to detect disturbances in the Force to confirm the theory.

    1. soulrideruk Bronze badge
      Coat

      Re: Starkiller Base

      So because of light travel time and all that,

      This all happened a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away then?

  27. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

    or perhaps

    someone's Starkiller Base has a really slow charge rate.

    1. tony72

      Re: or perhaps

      Snap.

  28. Bucky 2

    Actually, the solar system is a zoo. All the "stars" we see are windows just outside the orbit of Pluto, made to seem as though they're farther away.

    We're not a popular attraction.

    The dimming we see is a kindergarten field trip, as the bored children file past the window and look at the animals just sitting on one planet and not doing anything.

  29. This post has been deleted by its author

  30. DougS Silver badge

    Shouldn't we also see increasing IR output?

    If something is blocking the star's light, whether it is alien megastructures or something natural, that energy doesn't go away. The dimming light should be accompanied with an approximately equal increase in infrared output coming from whatever absorbed the star's light.

    The only way to avoid that would be if the energy was being directed/reflected away from our view (which would be a lot less likely to be natural) or caused to disappear entirely - i.e. if the aliens building a Dyson sphere also built themselves a small black hole on the inside to act as a heatsink to avoid telltale IR emissions that would give them away to wandering Berzerkers.

    1. cray74

      Re: Shouldn't we also see increasing IR output?

      Not necessarily - KIC 8462852 is 1400 light years away, while stars showing excess IR from debris disks like Beta Pictoris and 51 Ophiuchi are closer. At 410 light-years, it's challenging to spot 51 Ophiuchi's protoplanetary disk. A star-hugging structure at KIC 8462852 that hasn't received the attention of a powerful interferometer won't be noticeable.

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: Shouldn't we also see increasing IR output?

      Not if the star's light isn't blocked, maybe the star itself dims, for whatever reason?

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: Shouldn't we also see increasing IR output?

        Yes, it is possible the star itself is dimming as observed, but that would be new phenomena that hasn't been observed on any other star out of the many many many stars we have looked at. For astronomers, that would be as interesting as an alien megastructure as an explanation, because it would be something new for them to investigate.

        And I suppose finding the star itself was dimming wouldn't rule out aliens as the cause. Hypothetically, if you wanted to destroy another civilization (that you are at war with, or because you're a race of Trumps who afraid of anyone different than you) if you could do something to cause its star to dim that would be pretty effective.

        Or heck, maybe they have runaway global warming and they did it themselves - their solution was to compensate for a heating planet by dimming their star a few percent...

  31. InfiniteApathy
    Mushroom

    Best keep an eye on it

    Monopathic Hegemonizing Events are not to be trifled with.

  32. Dagg
    Angel

    Nah someone is building a hyper spatial bypass

    We just haven't checked our local galactic planning office.

  33. Dr Patrick J R Harkin

    Building a barrier around an entire star?

    Who knew aliens had Trump too.

  34. KR Caddis

    Running out of fission stuff?

    I have a similar experience every time my BarBQ runs low on propane, it ||: flickers, flares :||, ad nauseum, finally emits a quiet "pop" and dies. In this case it might take a billion US Years (USY).

  35. Wilseus

    It's the Quagaars!

    Or a garbage pod. A smegging garbage pod!

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