Scientists Still Baffled by Mysterious Star, Alien 'Megastructure' Theory Still Holds

dyson sphere

(Danielle Futselaar/SETI International) 
Three months ago, news broke that a giant "alien megastructure" could exist around a bizarre-looking star 1,500 light-years away.

While the prospect of aliens was first launched by Penn State astronomer Jason Wright, almost everyone in the astronomy community agreed that the chances that this was the case were "very low."

Now, the latest investigations into this strange star by Louisiana State University astronomer Bradley Schaefer have reignited the alien theory, New Scientist reported.

What makes this star, KIC8462852, so bizarre is the drastic changes in light we see from it over time. Many stars experience temporary fluctuations in brightness, increasing and decreasing in luminosity over time, but KIC8462852's changes are severe by comparison.

Between 2009 and 2013, astronomers using the Kepler space telescope discovered that it would sometimes lose up to 20% of its brightness. What's more, the changes didn't follow any obvious pattern.

That would suggest something gigantic must be blocking the light at random times, meaning that it couldn't be a planet or other regular orbiting object because that would generate a distinct pattern of dimming light. It must be something that changes shape over time, thereby blocking different levels of light at random intervals.

Surprise: It's probably not comets

An alien megastructure, called a Dyson swarm, was suggested as one explanation for what scientists have observed, but the most likely reason astronomers came up with was comets — a giant family of them.

But Shaefer says not so fast.

(CfA/Mark A. Garlick) 
"The comet-family idea was reasonably put forth as the best of the proposals, even while acknowledging that they all were a poor lot," Schaefer told New Scientist. "But now we have a refutation of the idea, and indeed, of all published ideas."

To make his discovery, Schaefer had to dig deep down into the astronomy archives at Harvard. It turns out, astronomers have data on KIC8462852 dating back as far as 1890.

By analyzing over 1,200 measurements of this star's brightness taken from 1890 through 1989, Schaefer found that the irregular dimming of KIC8462852 has been going on for over 100 years. Schaefer published his findings in the online preprint server arXiv.org.

What's more, he explains in his paper that this "century-long dimming trend requires an estimated 648,000 giant comets (each with 200 km diameter) all orchestrated to pass in front of the star within the last century," which he said is "completely implausible."

So what is it?

By killing the comet theory, Schaefer has brought us one step closer to finding out what is really happening around KIC8462852.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech) 
An artist's concept of gas-giant planets in a dusty solar system, similar to how HD 95068 could look. 

At the same time, he's also reignited the possibility that the source could be an alien megastructure that an advanced alien civilization has been slowly building over time. One thing's certain for Schaefer: The bizarre dimmings are probably caused by a single, physical mechanism that's undergoing some type of ongoing change.

"The century-long dimming and the day-long dips are both just extreme ends of a spectrum of timescales for unique dimming events, so by Ockham's Razor, all this is produced by one physical mechanism," Shaefer said in his paper. "This one mechanism does not appear as any isolated catastrophic event in the last century, but rather must be some ongoing process with continuous effects."

Schaefer isn't the only one interested in learning more about KIC8462852. Late last year, astronomer Doug Vakoch and his team at the new organization called SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) International — not to be confused with the SETI Institute — went hunting for aliens around KIC8462852.

They searched for signals that an alien civilization might be beaming toward Earth either in radio or visible wavelengths, but ultimately they came up empty handed. So, if it is aliens, then they're being awfully quiet.

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New Dead Body found at Dyatlov Pass where 9 hikers mysteriously died in 1959

© Ekaterina Vlasenko

A body has been discovered by tourists at the infamous Dyatlov Pass in Russia’s Ural Mountains where nine hikers mysteriously died in 1959. Emergency services have reportedly momentarily lost contact with the group. 

An unidentified body has been discovered by tourist-hikers at the infamous Dyatlov pass in Sverdlovskaya region, according to local security officials. A group of nine tourists reportedly from Perm contacted emergency services overnight on Friday.

Following a message from the group via satellite phone officials lost contact with the hikers, reported V-kurse.ru. Due to bad weather conditions emergency groups are unable to reach the barely-accessible site where the body was found. Some reports suggest that it is a male of about 50 years old.

© Google Maps

The travelers began their journey on January 1 trekking along one of the most difficult paths starting from North Ural to the town of Ivdel, according to the emergency services.

The site where body was reportedly located is infamous for the tragic and mysterious deaths of nine hikers in 1959. The causes of their deaths are still unknown while the case is surrounded with controversy.

The Dyatlov pass was named after the leader of the hiking group that went missing, Igor Dyatlov. The group consisted of graduate students from of the Ural Polytechnic Institute. Their plan was to trek 350 kilometers on skis through the forests and Northern Urals to Mount Otorten (which is translated from the local Mansi language as ‘Don’t go There’). Initially there were 10 people in the group, but one of the hikers fell ill and was forced to abandon the venture.

On February 12, 1959 the nine failed to report to the scheduled end-point at a village called Vizhay. As a result of rescue efforts, the group’s tent was found on the slope of the Mount Kholat Syakhl (“Mountain of the Dead” in Mansi) on February 26. Investigators later determined that tent had been was cut with a sharp object from the inside.

The skiers also left all their belongings in the tent while apparently trying to urgently flee the campsite. After following footprints down the hill for about 1.5 km – some of those fleeing were wearing only socks, some were even barefoot – the search party found five bodies.

A view of the tent as the rescuers found it on February 26, 1959. © Wikipedia

Some of the hikers were wearing only underwear and their bodies showed signs of struggle such as fractured skulls and broken ribs. One of the women had her tongue missing. The search for the remaining four travelers who were located further into the woods took more than two months.

The Soviet criminal investigation in 1959 failed to establish the causes of the incident. The final report said that an "unknown compelling force" killed the people.

The incident which remains one of the most chilling unsolved mysteries of the 20th century sparked many theories in which investigators attempted to rebuild the chronology of events. The numerous explanations put forward included an avalanche, military tests seen by the hikers that the government was trying to hide, a hostile encounter with an unknown creature, or paranormal activity.

The mystery of the Dyatlov Pass incident has inspired filmmakers to make a science fiction horror movie entitled ‘Devil’s Pass’ where five students investigate the incident.

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