Last week, astronomers rushed to unravel the mystery surrounding KIC 8462852, also known as Boyajian’s Star, Tabby’s Star, or our personal favorite, the .
The call went out in the early hours of May 19, with astronomers from the Fairborn Observatory announcing that the star’s strange fluctuations had begun again.
The Odd Behavior
Normally, the dimming of a star is due to a planet passing in front of it, but Tabby’s Star doesn’t follow the we would expect from a planet’s revolution nor does the light dim at a uniform rate. Sometimes it only falls by 3 percent, but other times it decreases by 20 percent. Even more interesting is the fact that the star has slowly been for the past century.
“The KIC 8462852 light curve from 1890 to 1989 shows a highly significant secular trend in fading over 100 years, with this being completely unprecedented for any F-type main sequence star,” astronomer Bradley Schaefer. “Such stars should be very stable in brightness, with evolution making for changes only on time scales of many millions of years.”
The New Data
On Friday, it was observed that the light from Tabby’s Star dimmed by about 3 percent before returning to its normal level of brightness on Monday morning.
It was noted that this period of dimming roughly mirrored an event that happened three years ago leading Tabetha Boyajian, for whom the star is named, to speculate that it might be following some sort of pattern after all.
“We’re still quite unsure if it is, in fact, a duplicate of that event, meaning that it’s the same object that’s passing in front of (the star). It could be a different object or even the same object that’s (rotated) to have a different contrast or signature against the star,” she .
Assuming these dips in brightness are in fact indicative of a pattern, then that means we will be seeing more fluctuations in the future, enabling scientists to get more data to piece together this mystery.
Let’s be clear, and Boyajian herself is hesitant to embrace it though she admits it is a possibility. However, the more likely explanation is a cloud of dust or another natural object is periodically drifting in front of the star.
“I think it’s an interesting coincidence,” she says. “You can imagine some Death Star blowing up a planet that was inhabited perhaps and this is the pieces of shrapnel from the planet that is orbiting around the star and blocking the light.”
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