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Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Tabby's star (KIC8462825): Encircled by structures, or swarms?

You probably know Tabby's star (licence plate: KIC 8462825), as the star that was reported as having 'alien megastructures' around it. The jury's still out on what the hell is gong on at this distant star, but Jose Solorzano, over at data science central, has been working to fit the shape of the mysterious objects obscuring the star to their observed light curves.
His results are intriguing: "I do not believe it's possible to precisely match the day-792 light curve with a small number of entirely opaque objects," he writes. "What is likely required is a swarm or semi-transparent cloud".
That also fits with the length of the observed transits, which take multiple days, rather than the hours more typical for a solid structure. The model he comes up with for one transit looks like this:

Actually quite hard to spot, isn't it? Scroll back and forth between 0:10 and 0:20. It is there, but it's a very diffuse cloud that dims the whole star, making it hard to spot - only the very densest central portion of the cloud shows up, as a weak silhouette.
What does this rule out? Not much by itself - a swarm of dust or a swarm of small solar collectors would look about the same at this distance - but it adds to the growing pile of evidence that whatever's going on around Tabby's star is due to something diffuse but structured, rather than a few monolithic objects. So less this:

Above: The idea of a monolithic Dyson Sphere. Courtesy of .

... and more this (perhaps):

Above: A swarm of solar powered nanosats. Image courtesy of 

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