Not enough data
I once heard astronomy described as "Trying to figure out what the inside of a warehouse looks like while peering through the keyhole".
Astronomers worldwide are scrambling a worldwide effort to capture as many images of the famous “Tabby's Star” (also known as Boyajian's Star), which has abruptly entered a dimming phase. The mysterious KIC 8462852 has intrigued astro-boffins ever since Tabetha Boyajian worked out the dimming signature in Kepler observations …
Apart from the lack of a realistic mechanism that could "break up" any planet, let alone a large one, I've got one word for you: gravity. if you split the earth into, say, 500 equally sized lumps, they'd remain clumped together, hence you'd see a standard planetary transit light curve.
in the rather OTT "Strange Signals" shown recently (did we *really* need to know the backstory about two researchers ????) Tabbys Star was mentioned, and the intriguing suggestion it's surrounded by an incomplete dyson sphere.
Incomplete ? I wonder if their funding rant out too ....
"If it was a complete Dyson's Sphere.. then I guess there would be no light to see as it would be more or less completely surrounded..."
In fact the sphere would have to radiate exactly as much energy as the star it contains, but in a lower frequency band (due to the work extracted and associated entropy losses). If any attempt was made to contain the energy it would build up and melt the sphere.
Basically a powerful infrared source with no shorter wavelengths.
"did we *really* need to know the backstory about two researchers ????"
Yes well nowadays you're only allowed to write/direct anything if your first (and second and third) priority is to package absolutely everything in copious amounts of appropriately harrowing "drama". Which leads to the current situation where learning about every single passenger's brother-in-law's little sister's babysitter's great-uncle's dog's debilitating illness contributing to their trials and tribulations that day is mandatory before we can hear the plain technical reason why flight XYZ crashed. Saying "they forgot to put the fuel cap back on" takes three minutes tops, so they need some inane filler for the remaining 42...
God bless BBC4 and PBS, the last bastions of decent TV documentaries.
Radio 4 ("In Our Time," etc.) does a far more thorough job of explaining complicated ideas than BBC1 or BBC2, all without the benefit of graphics, visual aids or sending the presenter half way round the world to stand on a volcano.
Allow me a shout out to the superb "The Life Scientific", presented by Jim Al-Khalili, Well worth seeking out on ListenAgain if you're overseas, have an interest in science and didn't know the programme existed.
@strum: the trouble is a lot of the stuff on mainstream channels isn't aimed at people who already know about it, or people who want to know about it. It's aimed at people who want to be told a nice story about characters striving to achieve a goal, overcoming adversity and living happily ever after - with some sciency window dressing. You might as well watch Star Trek.
It's probably just an old, wandering AI that came in from the high beyond and will not function properly again until it gets back out there
Good sci-fi reference. The "A Fire upon the Deep" series was good with an interesting set of ideas (especially the gestalt intelligences - our cat colony still gets named in that fashion sometimes..).
The problem with notions about either large comets or a planet breaking up (?! What the heck could be causing it to break up!) or an incomplete Dyson spehre is that in such cases radiation from Tabby's star incident on the obscuring objetc(s) should be re-radiated as infrared radiation, thus causing an excess of infrared radiation over what we'd expect to see if Tabby's star is unaccompanied. And thus far, no infrared excess has been seen.
Much as I'd like it to be a Dyson-sphere in the making, it seems rather more likely to be something we simply haven't thought of yet. Assuming it is something orbiting the star that's causing what we're seeing, it's interesting that the period seems to be close to two years, which given the mass of Tabby's star, would put the orbiting body about central to the local 'habitable zone' around the star, if my mental arithmetic is right.
I can't wait to find out what's actually causing the variability in Tabby's star. But until we do, it's certainly fun trying to work out what might be the cause!
My guess is that there was a planet in an unstable orbit that went inside of it's Roche limit and is breaking/has broken up. Iron-rich parts of the planet are falling into the sun and, iron being an energy-suck for any nuclear reaction, are slowing the star's fission, causing a dip in emissions. The dip lasts until the iron is fissioned or accelerated and ejected.
Fred Saberhagen's Berserkers, SoaSE's Vasari-chasing nightmare from the galactic Core, Strephon's Dark Lady from Traveller: The New Era/MegaTraveller, the Great Old Ones preparing for another visit (anyone checked how right the stars are recently??), someone else's version of Morse Code... there must be a simple explanation somewhere :-)
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