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Have We Found Alien Life?

Yale postdoctoral astronomy fellow Tabetha Boyajian calls the star KIC 8462852 the most mysterious star in the universe. Boyajian and her colleagues have been studying the star for several years and have observed abrupt dimming on multiple occasions. The dimming is similar to what happens when a distant star is obscurred by an orbiting planet, but on a much larger scale. The largest planets observed are known to cause dimming of about 1%, but Tabby's star sometimes dims by as much as 20%. And the dimming does not follow a predictable pattern, as a planet's orbit would.

Science fiction fans have suggested the dimming might be the result of an alien megastructure such as a Dyson sphere. But the engineering requirements—let alone the physics—of such a structure make it an unlikely proposition even if aliens existed.

Artist's rendition of comet swarm

So what is happening with Tabby's star? A swarm of comets is generally considered, if not quite plausible, at least not an entirely unlikely explanation—but new research shows the comet scenario to be more unlikely than was originally thought.

Tabby's star remains a mystery, but it may no longer be the single most mysterious star in the universe. In September researchers announced they have found another star, EPIC 204278916, with even more pronounced dimmingup to 65% over a span of 25 days. The more we study our universe, the more mysteries we find.

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