The reason behind star KIC 8462852’s mysterious dimming, which had been attributed to an extraterrestrial civilization at one point, appears to have been identified.
“A new study using NASA’s Spitzer and Swift missions, as well as the Belgian AstroLAB IRIS observatory, suggests that the cause of the dimming over long periods is likely an uneven dust cloud moving around the star,” according to a NASA press release.
“This pretty much rules out the alien megastructure theory…,” Huan Meng, the paper’s lead author noted.
The star—also known as Boyajian’s Star, or Tabby’s Star—became a point of interest after scientists noticed it exhibiting an unusual long-term dimming trend including a short period where its light appeared to fall by as much as 20 percent.
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So the team began observing the entity using multiple instruments and eventually determined that the blocking particles are likely fairly small in diameter but “bigger than interstellar dust.”
Based on these parameters, a dust cloud was considered the most likely cause behind the dimming because, as the release explains, “Dust that orbits a star, called circumstellar dust, is not so small it would fly away, but also not big enough to uniformly block light in all wavelengths.”
Despite the finding, the cause behind the star’s shorter-term and larger dips is still unknown.