Recently the Kepler Mission detected a anomaly in a star system (KIC 8462852) that people are speculating could be a sign of intelligent life (aliens) being cause for anomaly. What was exactly going on there?
Kepler detected a light signature on the star (KIC 8462852) that was very unusual. The light from the star appears to be blocked by something, which the amount varies, by up to 20% of the light being blocked. The frequency of the blockage is irregular. This means that there must be a very large amount of small objects inside of that system. There are basically 3 ideas that so far check out:
- The debris could be a result of two large planets colliding with each other recently (think the event that created the moon). The main problem with this is the event would have had to happen within a very small window of opportunity.
- The debris could be a large number of comets, coming from a close encounter of a star recently. In fact, there is currently a close star, which may or may not be a binary. Either case, this could well explain the effect that has been observed. This is the most likely cause, due to the low infrared signature of whatever is causing this.
- There could be an artificially made cloud of materials there, perhaps a Dyson Swarm, bubble, or similar item. This is actually unlikely, as the main reason this star is suspect is a lack of infrared, meaning that whatever is obscuring the star must be cold. In fact, that is the most difficult aspect to explain.
The first two point to something incredible rare happening recently, at a time where we could see it. It's still a possibility, and in fact the most likely item, but the third possibility has captured the public's imagination. It's likely enough that they are going to do a SETI search on the star, but that doesn't mean anything, yet.
This table gives an overview of possible explanations of the different aspects of anomalies that an artificial superstructure might cause: