The most mysterious star in the cosmos

Posted: October 4, 2017 by oldbrew in Astronomy, Measurement, Uncertainty
Tags:

Star KIC 8462852 in infrared (2MASS survey) and ultraviolet (GALEX) [credit: NASA]


One observer commented about “Tabby’s Star” that ‘every explanation that doesn’t involve aliens has some sort of problem’. Its nickname is the WTF star, reports Phys.org.

Round 5 a.m. on a Tuesday this past May, Tabetha “Tabby” Boyajian sat staring at a laptop, cross-legged on her couch in the living room of her Baton Rouge, La., home. The coffee table was cluttered with the artifacts of an all-nighter: an empty wine glass to calm her nerves alongside an empty coffee mug to fuel her through the night.

Since midnight, Boyajian had been downloading and analyzing data from the Las Cumbres telescopes—two on Maui, Hawaii, and two more on the Spanish island of Tenerife off the coast of West Africa—that sat trained on an F-type star, bigger and hotter than the sun, near the constellation Cygnus.


She’d been working all night, but Boyajian had been waiting for this moment for four years. By 5 a.m., data from the telescopes in Maui confirmed what the ones in Tenerife had already said: The star formally known as KIC 8462852, now called “Tabby’s Star,” had started to dim again.

For the next five days—while Boyajian, her colleagues and a pack of crowdsourced amateur astronomers from around the world observed—the star grew dimmer and dimmer. “I don’t think I slept for a week,” says Boyajian, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Louisiana State University (LSU).

An event never seen on any star in the universe, it was as if the hand of God had turned a giant dimmer in the sky. Science proffered no explanations for what was causing the star to wane, how long it would last or how much light the star would lose. After the star had faded by 2 percent over the course of five days, the lights mysteriously rebounded more slowly than they dimmed.

Since the star’s discovery in 2009, the anomalous luminary has inspired theories behind its sensational odd-ball behavior. When astronomers and stargazers watch the star fade, are they witnessing the aftermath of a star devouring its planet? A catastrophic collision of planets? Or does the star’s waning shed light on the ever elusive search for intelligent life?

This latest event in a string of inexplicable fluctuations could provide an answer.

Continued here.

Comments
  1. Dodgy Geezer says:

    …When astronomers and stargazers watch the star fade, are they witnessing the aftermath of a star devouring its planet? A catastrophic collision of planets? Or does the star’s waning shed light on the ever elusive search for intelligent life?…

    ..or is there simply something in the way….?

  2. oldbrew says:

    DG – they’ve had plenty of time to think about that.

  3. oldbrew says:

    Mysterious dimming of Tabby’s Star may be caused by dust

    October 4, 2017 by Elizabeth Landau
    http://m.phys.org/news/2017-10-mysterious-dimming-tabby-star.html

  4. JB says:

    More likely its the most mysterious star among earthly astronomers.
    After all, they’re still LOOKING….

  5. p.g.sharrow says:

    Edge on view of dust rings and proto-planets, much as the rings of Saturn sounds to be the best concept.

  6. p.g.sharrow says:

    give the that system’s plain of elliptic about 12 degrees different then ours should about do it…pg

  7. oldbrew says:

    Milky way’s ‘most-mysterious star’ continues to confound
    October 4, 2017

    “The realization that the star sometimes gets brighter in addition to periods of dimming is incompatible with most hypotheses to explain its weird behavior.”

    “An important next step will be to determine how the color of the star changes with time, especially during its brief dips in brightness,” added Shappee. “That information would help narrow down the possible explanations for why this star is doing such strange things.”

    For example, if the dimming was caused by dust obscuring the star from us, then it would appear to get redder as it dimmed. But if large objects were blocking the star’s light, then no color change would be seen.

    Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2017-10-milky-most-mysterious-star-confound.html

    More information: “Where Is the Flux Going? The Long-Term Photometric Variability of Boyajian’s Star,” Joshua D. Simon et al., 2017, arxiv.org/abs/1708.07822

  8. oldbrew says:

    A run-through of some of the theories…

    The scientific quest to explain Kepler’s most enigmatic find
    October 5, 2017

    In May 2017, and again in June, August and September, the star obliged with new performances of unexplained dimming, and astronomers were ready for it. The dips in brightness were smaller this time, and the four events lasted between five days and two weeks. Scientists are now processing this new data, wondering if it will hold the key to understanding this remarkable star.

    “This kind of patiently executed, coordinated monitoring at multiple wavelengths will unlock this mystery eventually,” Batalha said.

    Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2017-10-scientific-quest-kepler-enigmatic.html

  9. Dodgy Geezer says:

    https://tallbloke.wordpress.com/2017/10/09/mysterious-long-term-dimming-of-kic-8462852-may-be-caused-by-dust-astronomers-say/

    ..oldbrew says:
    October 4, 2017 at 5:02 pm
    DG – they’ve had plenty of time to think about that…..

    Looks as if there was something in the way after all…

  10. oldbrew says:

    DG: they must have read your comment 😉

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