An Update From the Astronomers Who Proposed the Alien Megastructures – The Atlantic

On the side of natural explanations, if a recent cataclysmic event in the system created a large cloud of dust responsible for the dimming events Kepler saw, then it’s possible a heat signature will show up at some point in the next couple of years; another team of astronomers is using NASA’s Spitzer infrared space telescope to watch for that possibility.

Boyajian herself is coordinating a worldwide effort of professional telescopes to monitor the star regularly for the next several years, to catch the star in the act. Citizen scientists are still on the case, too: the American Association of Variable Star Observers is tracking brightness measurements of the star made by amateur astronomers. When the star dims again, we will use telescopes around the world to measure how much the star dims at different wavelengths. Since different substances have characteristic absorption patterns, this will tell us the composition of the intervening material. For instance, if it dims much more at ultraviolet wavelengths than in the infrared, we will know dust is to blame. If we see the characteristic pattern of cometary gases, that will help confirm the cometary hypothesis.

And if we see the same brightness changes at all wavelengths? That would indicate that whatever is blocking the starlight is big and opaque—inconsistent with comets, but consistent with the alien megastructure hypothesis.

As Boyajian herself reminds us in her TED talk, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” and as the dust settles on the Schaefer/Hippke controversy, Boyajian’s star remains the most mysterious star in our galaxy.

From: An Update From the Astronomers Who Proposed the Alien Megastructures – The Atlantic

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