Tabetha always Knew
Tabby's star, also known as KIC 8462852, is a peculiar star located in the constellation Cygnus, about 1,280 light-years away from Earth. It was first observed by the Kepler spacecraft in 2009 and has since captured the attention of astronomers and the public alike due to its mysterious and irregular light fluctuations. In 2015, astronomer Tabetha Boyajian and her colleagues published a paper describing the unusual light curve of Tabby's Star, which sparked intense interest in the scientific community and led to numerous hypotheses to explain its behavior.
One of the most intriguing hypotheses to explain the unusual light curve of Tabby's Star has a Dyson Sphere around it. A Dyson Sphere is a hypothetical megastructure built around a star to capture its energy output. Physicist Freeman Dyson first proposed the concept in a 1960 paper titled "Search for Artificial Stellar Sources of Infrared Radiation." In the paper, Dyson suggested that an advanced civilization could build a massive sphere or swarm of smaller objects around a star to capture its energy and use it for their own purposes.
The idea behind a Dyson Sphere is that it would provide an enormous amount of energy to the civilization that built it. A star like our sun emits a vast amount of energy in the form of light and heat, and a Dyson Sphere would capture
much of this energy and convert it into usable power. As a result, the sphere would have to be constructed from various materials, including metals and synthetic materials. Furthermore, it could capture different types of energy, such as visible light or infrared radiation.
Several different types of Dyson Spheres have been proposed, ranging from partial to complete spheres. A partial Dyson Sphere would be a ring or swarm of objects that partially surround the star, while an entire Dyson Sphere would completely cover the star.
That is to say, some versions of the Dyson Sphere concept propose that the sphere could be constructed in multiple layers or shells, with each layer absorbing different types of energy.
While the concept of a Dyson Sphere is intriguing, currently, there is no evidence that any advanced civilization has ever built a Dyson Sphere, and it is not clear if such a structure is even feasible with our current technology. Meanwhile, all we have to do is look into who built the pyramids or what lies beneath the oceans to know we are still learning what is possible.
Regardless, this hypothesis has captured the public's imagination, but it is also controversial, as it relies on many assumptions about the behavior of theoretical extraterrestrial beings and their technology. Consequently, the idea of a Dyson Sphere around Tabby's Star has prompted many astronomers to search for other possible explanations for the star's behavior, including natural causes.
One of the scientists who has significantly contributed to our understanding of Tabby's Star is Jason Wright, an astrophysicist and professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State University. For instance, since its discovery, Wright has been involved in the study of Tabby's Star and has proposed several hypotheses to explain its unusual behavior. He has also been a vocal advocate for the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). Moreover, he has argued that the scientific community should take the possibility of intelligent life in the universe seriously.
Look What they did
One of the first hypotheses proposed by Wright to explain the light curve of Tabby's Star was the idea that a swarm of comets might surround it. This hypothesis is regarding the observation that the dips in the star's brightness were irregular in shape and depth, suggesting that they were caused by a swarm of objects rather than a single large one. Wright and his colleagues proposed that the comets may have been knocked out of their orbits by a passing star and that their collisions with each other and the star would create a cloud of dust and gas that would partially block the star's light.
On the other hand, subsequent observations of Tabby's Star revealed that the dips in brightness were not consistent with the comet hypothesis, as they were too deep and irregular to be explained by a swarm of comets alone. Consequently, Wright and his colleagues then proposed another theory known as the "alien megastructure" hypothesis. This hypothesis suggested that the star's unusual behavior could be explained by the presence of a swarm of megastructures built by an advanced extraterrestrial civilization, which would be capable of partially blocking the star's light.
The idea of a Dyson Sphere surrounding Tabby's Star captured the public's fancy, and the hypothesis received widespread media attention. However, Wright himself was cautious about endorsing the idea, and he emphasized that it was just one possible explanation among many. He also pointed out that the hypothesis relied on many assumptions about the behavior and motivations of hypothetical extraterrestrial beings and that it was difficult to test.
In addition to the alien megastructure hypothesis, Jason Wright proposed a new hypothesis to explain the behavior of Tabby's Star. Wright and his colleagues suggested that the star's unusual brightness fluctuations could be caused by the presence of dust clouds in orbit around the star.
Additionally, they proposed that the dust clouds could be the result of a recent collision between two or more asteroids or comets. This collision would have created a cloud of dust and debris that would partially block the star's light as it passed in front of it. Meanwhile, the cloud of dust would spread out into a wider ring, creating a series of dips in the star's brightness that were similar to those observed in the light curve of Tabby's Star.
The dust cloud hypothesis had several advantages over the alien megastructure hypothesis:
- It was a natural explanation that did not require the existence of advanced extraterrestrial life.
- It was consistent with the observations of the star's infrared emissions, which showed excess infrared radiation and the presence of warm dust around the star.
- The hypothesis was testable, as it made specific predictions about the shape and behavior of the dust clouds.
Subsequent observations of Tabby's Star have supported the dust cloud hypothesis. In 2018, Tabetha Boyajian and her team analyzed data from the Kepler spacecraft. As a result, they found evidence of a significant increase in dust around the star in the years leading up to its unusual brightness fluctuations. Most importantly, this increase in dust was consistent with the idea that a recent collision had created a cloud of dust and debris that was gradually spreading into a wider ring.
It too cloudy
However, the dust cloud hypothesis faces some challenges. One of the biggest challenges is explaining the irregular and unpredictable nature of the star's brightness fluctuations. While the dust cloud hypothesis can account for some of the dips in brightness observed in Tabby's Star, it does not explain why the dips are so irregular and unpredictable. So, this suggests that other factors may be at play that are not yet understood.
In conclusion, Jason Wright's proposed hypothesis of dust clouds around Tabby's Star provides a natural explanation for its unusual brightness fluctuations. The ongoing study of Tabby's Star highlights the importance of considering multiple hypotheses and gathering more data to test them, but the Dyson Sphere holds more promise.
In short, recent discoveries of exoplanets (planets outside our solar system) have shown that many worlds are similar in size to Earth and orbit in the habitable zone of their host stars. According to data from NASA's Kepler space telescope, which has been searching for exoplanets since 2009, tens of billions of Earth-like planets could be in the Milky Way galaxy alone. Other telescopes and observatories, such as the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), continue to discover new exoplanets, which could further refine our estimates of the number of Earth-like planets in our galaxy.
Let the Sun shine in
Here's a question: Are we the most advanced beings in our little galaxy? If we mine our planet for energy, why wouldn't an advanced race mine their sun for the same reason?
Our sun's total energy in one day, known as its "luminosity," is approximately 3.8 x 10^26 joules. As a result, this amount of energy is equivalent to the output of over 100 billion nuclear power plants operating at total capacity.
To put this in perspective, the amount of energy the sun generates in just one second is roughly equal to the amount of energy released by detonating a trillion (10^24) tons of TNT. In other words, this is enough energy to power the entire planet for millions of years.
Feel the Power
Tabitha and Jason are on to something here. Clouds of dust may satisfy the scientific community, but I think it is more likely that our "friends" know the sun's power is exponential. Just like you!