Scientists are officially looking for alien life near a mysterious star that we reported on last week.
“We are looking at it with the Allen Telescope Array [ATA],” Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute in Mountain View, California, told Space.com, although he added that people “should perhaps moderate their enthusiasm with the lessons of history.”
ORIGINAL STORY: It’s one of the weirdest stars we’ve ever discovered. It’s 1,480 light years from earth called KIC 8462852 and scientists are getting ready to consider the possibility that it might be surrounded by alien technology.
The discovery was made by a mission which is looking for habitable planets around stars that are similar to our own. The Kepler telescope measures small differences in light put out by a star as planets orbit it. When the telescope looked at KIC 8462852 it found differences in light that just couldn’t be accounted for by almost any natural means.
According to The Atlantic:
Jason Wright, an astronomer from Penn State University, is set to publish an alternative interpretation of the light pattern. SETI researchers have long suggested that we might be able to detect distant extraterrestrial civilizations, by looking for enormous technological artifacts orbiting other stars. Wright and his co-authors say the unusual star’s light pattern is consistent with a “swarm of megastructures,” perhaps stellar-light collectors, technology designed to catch energy from the star.
“When [Boyajian] showed me the data, I was fascinated by how crazy it looked,” Wright told me. “Aliens should always be the very last hypothesis you consider, but this looked like something you would expect an alien civilization to build.”
The next steps are to point a satellite receiver at the star to see if we can detect anything that might be discernible as radio waves produced by a technological source.
Even if the star was revealed to have artificial structures around it, don’t go packing your bags for an interstellar vacation just yet. The star’s distance from Earth means that what we’re seeing is actually over 1,400 years in the past. Even if there was an advanced civilization there once, there is no guarantee that they are still there in the present.