Comets Aren't What’s Causing KIC 8462852 to Dim

Sunday, 17 January 2016 - 3:53PM
Astrophysics
Science News
Sunday, 17 January 2016 - 3:53PM
Comets Aren't What’s Causing KIC 8462852 to Dim
Not long ago, KIC 8462852 was making waves in the news due to some of its weird behaviors. Astronomers had determined that the star was losing up to 20% of its brightness due to some object(s) that were passing in front of it, and as this was quite a large dip, it led some to start speculating as to what could be causing it. 

Of course, one of the most wild and unlikely theories got the most attention, as some had speculated that the star's dimming could be caused by an alien mega structure --possibly something akin to a Dyson Sphere (a fictional device that surrounds a star to collect its energy). Other scientists, however, suggested that comets and the trails of dust they leave behind might have been the culprit – a theory which was quite prevalent among astronomers for a period of time. Now additional evidence has surfaced showing that this theory is basically an impossibility.  

Bradley Shaefer of Louisiana State University looked further into the mystery surrounding KIC 8462852, and what he found proved that comets probably couldn't be the cause of the surprising amount of dimming the star experienced.  An in depth examination showed that the star had dimmed a total of 20% over the course of about a century, and that there has been no real similar pattern in the past.  From his studies, he concluded that it would take about 648,000 comets, each 200 kilometers wide, in order to achieve the amount of dimming that KIC 8462852 experienced. That being said, he also found the alien mega structure theory to be just as unlikely as well. If there was an object surrounding the star, it should be radiating the light it's absorbed from the star's heat, and that's not been observed either.  

So what's causing this mysterious phenomenon? The answer continues to elude scientists. Many continue to believe aliens are responsible, but Occam's Razor must be applied. The simplest explanation is usually the right explanation.  On the other hand, an explanation that accurately fits the evidence has yet to be given. Hopefully further studies into the matter will help yield something more conclusive and the mystery of KIC 8462852 can finally be solved.

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