Did Astronomers Just Find Evidence of Alien Life? Well, Let’s Take a Look …
A paper by a team of astronomers is getting a lot of attention today because, well, aliens.
Jason Wright is an astronomer at Penn State University and he's about to publish a paper about a "bizarre" star system. It seems that several teams of astronomers have been keeping a close eye on a large cluster of objects in space that they say could be something very intriguing.
"I was fascinated by how crazy it looked," Wright told The Atlantic, of the cluster. "Aliens should always be the very last hypothesis you consider, but this looked like something you would expect an alien civilization to build."
Now, before you get too excited and share one of the more sensational stories about this topic on social media, scientists are being very skeptical about this find (as they should be).
It's not a matter of the best minds in science shouting, "We've found aliens" but more along the lines of these men and women shrugging their shoulders and saying, "meh ... maybe ... it's not out of the question."
With the big news no less than a month ago that had NASA confirmed that there is, in fact, water on Mars, it is perhaps understandable that folks today are super-excited about the possibility of finding alien life.
So what exactly is everyone buzzing about?
Well, there's this star. It has a mega-catchy name: KIC 8462852. It's one of more than a hundred thousand stars that astronomers have been checking out via NASA's Kepler Mission.
KIC 8462852 is more massive, hotter and brighter than our sun. Now, the Kepler data for this particular star is a bit perplexing to scientists.
One of the things our science friends look for in this data is whether or not there is a dip in brightness ... and this one doesn't follow the same pattern that astronomers are used to seeing.
Tabetha Boyajian, from Yale checks in with this quote: “We’d never seen anything like this star. It was really weird. We thought it might be bad data or movement on the spacecraft, but everything checked out.”
KIC 8462852 first gained attention in 2009. It's located just above the Milky Way between the constellations Cygnus and Lyra. Back then, scientists tagged it as a possible candidate for having Earth-like planets orbiting it.
Then, in 2011 a group of planet hunters announced that the star was “interesting" and “bizarre” because it was surrounded by a mass of matter in tight formation.
This was of interest because that's consistent a mass of debris that normally surrounds young stars (for example, this happened with our sun -- all of that debris that once surrounded the sun eventually came together to form the planets in our solar system).
Here's the catch, though. KIC 8462852 isn't a young star. It's almost as if that debris has to have been deposited there recently. If not, that stuff would have been swallowed up by KIC 8462852 or it would have been clumped together by gravity by now.
So, what's the big deal? Well, the SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) team thinks that there's a possibility that this "debris," this "stuff" might have been placed there on purpose. By who or what?
Well, we don't know but when the team at SETI throws around the word "aliens" people start paying attention.
Theoretically, as civilizations become more advanced, they would create newer and better ways of harnessing energy. Scientists and super-geniuses like Stephen Hawking and Michio Kaku have long proposed that an advanced intelligence would eventually figure out a way to harness the energy from their home star.
So, it would be like us figuring out a way to use the massive energy from the sun to power our planet. Think of massive solar panels surrounding the sun. Could that be what this debris is?
The truth is, scientists can't make even an educated guess at this point -- but it's sure fun to think about!
What's next? Well, astronomers are going to point a radio dish at KIC 8462852 and look for wavelengths that might indicate a technologically advanced civilization. They're planning on doing this in January.
There you have it. That's why your friends who geek out on this kind of stuff are geeking out hardcore right now. And it really is pretty cool!
Well, at least until our new alien overlords discover exactly where we are and stop by to say hello unannounced and uninvited!