Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Walls in Space?

If you are a fan of science (i.e., not an official or apologist of the current administration), you may have noted the very interesting discovery made in 2011 about the star officially named "KIC 8462852," also known as "Tabby's Star" in honor of astronomer Tabetha Boyajian.

While reviewing data collected by the Kepler Space Telescope on the brightness of KIC 8462852, Boyajian and other observers noted strange patterns in the light they saw coming from the star. While such variations in brightness are eagerly sought by astronomers, and are generally interpreted as hints that a large object (such as a planet) is orbiting the star and periodically reducing the level of brightness, the odd variations noted from Tabby's Star are more difficult to explain. Some scientists interpret the irregular light patterns as suggesting that a collection of gigantic artificial structures could be orbiting the star, technological artifacts built by an almost unimaginably advanced civilization capable of space travel and of construction in space on a monumental scale. Such a structure could be a "Dyson* Swarm" of artificial elements, such as shown in this artist's impression -

or a "Dyson Sphere," as in this image - 

You may also recall that a Dyson Sphere played a role in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation

Of course, Occam's Razor would dictate that the actual reason for the fluctuating brightness of Tabby's Star is much less dramatic ... but far less cool**.

I'll be waiting to see how the story of Tabby's Star develops. I'm not sure if I want it to be evidence of an alien civilization or not, but no matter what it turns out to be, it will be a monument to our ability to explore the infinite universe around us.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* After scientist Freeman Dyson, who first hypothesized the creation of massive structures in space to capture the energy of a star.

** Unless you're an astronomer or an astrophysicist.


Mike said...

Maybe we could create a "Dyson* Swarm" around Air Force 1.

allenwoodhaven said...

I'd heard about this. Very cool but I wonder how such a sphere could be constructed. Where would all the materials come from?