The mysterious dimming of a star 1,480 light years away in the constellation Cygnus has baffled scientists. Data confirm that the brightness of the star KIC 8462852, popularly known as Tabby’s star, has decreased by three percent in just four years but no one can explain why.
None of its neighbors experienced the same dimming. Many scientists have attempted to explain the reason behind this, but so far, none of these theories have satisfied anyone.
“The scenario in which the dimming in the KIC 8462852 light curve was caused by the destruction of a family of comets remains the preferred explanation,” wrote Massimo Marengo, an Iowa State University associate professor of physics and astronomy, Alan Hulsebus, an Iowa State doctoral student, and Sarah Willis, a former Iowa State graduate student now with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory, in their study published last year in the journal The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
However, many believe that this explanation is incorrect since the brightness of Tabby’s star had dimmed by 20 percent in the last century, a finding that cannot be explained by natural means. In light of this, many speculate that aliens are converting the material in KIC 8462852’s planetary system into giant megastructures that have been sucking up all the star’s energy for more than 100 years.
This theory was later debunked by Vanderbilt University’s Michael Lund. According to Lund, there is no credible proof that Tabby’s star has steadily dimmed all these years. Lund adds that the dimming in the last century was simply the result of the observations having been made by different telescopes and cameras.
Scientists assert that further investigations are needed. Nevertheless, we may be one step closer to solving this problem since the star has captured the attention of thousands of amateur astronomers across the globe, who are helping professionals unlock the secret of Tabby’s star once and for all.