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The Most Mysterious Star In Our Galaxy - Alien Megastructures?

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http://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2015/10/the-most-interesting-star-in-our-galaxy/410023/

In the Northern hemisphere’s sky, hovering above the Milky Way, there are two constellations—Cygnus the swan, her wings outstretched in full flight, and Lyra, the harp that accompanied poetry in ancient Greece, from which we take our word “lyric.”

Between these constellations sits an unusual star, invisible to the naked eye, but visible to the Kepler Space Telescope, which stared at it for more than four years, beginning in 2009.

“We’d never seen anything like this star,” says Tabetha Boyajian, a postdoc at Yale. “It was really weird. We thought it might be bad data or movement on the spacecraft, but everything checked out.”

Kepler was looking for tiny dips in the light emitted by this star. Indeed, it was looking for these dips in more than 150,000 stars, simultaneously, because these dips are often shadows cast by transiting planets. Especially when they repeat, periodically, as you’d expect if they were caused by orbiting objects.

The Kepler Space Telescope collected a great deal of light from all of those stars it watched. So much light that Kepler’s science team couldn’t process it all with algorithms. They needed the human eye, and human cognition, which remains unsurpassed in certain sorts of pattern recognition. Kepler’s astronomers decided to found Planet Hunters, a program that asked “citizen scientists” to examine light patterns emitted by the stars, from the comfort of their own homes.

In 2011, several citizen scientists flagged one particular star as “interesting” and “bizarre.” The star was emitting a light pattern that looked stranger than any of the others Kepler was watching.

The light pattern suggests there is a big mess of matter circling the star, in tight formation. That would be expected if the star were young. When our solar system first formed, four and a half billion years ago, a messy disk of dust and debris surrounded the sun, before gravity organized it into planets, and rings of rock and ice.

But this unusual star isn’t young. If it were young, it would be surrounded by dust that would give off extra infrared light. There doesn’t seem to be an excess of infrared light around this star.

It appears to be mature.

And yet, there is this mess of objects circling it. A mess big enough to block a substantial number of photons that would have otherwise beamed into the tube of the Kepler Space Telescope. If blind nature deposited this mess around the star, it must have done so recently. Otherwise, it would be gone by now. Gravity would have consolidated it, or it would have been sucked into the star and swallowed, after a brief fiery splash.

...

Jason Wright, an astronomer from Penn State University, is set to publish an alternative interpretation of the light pattern. SETI researchers have long suggested that we might be able to detect distant extraterrestrial civilizations, by looking for enormous technological artifacts orbiting other stars. Wright and his co-authors say the unusual star’s light pattern is consistent with a “swarm of megastructures,” perhaps stellar-light collectors, technology designed to catch energy from the star.

“When [boyajian] showed me the data, I was fascinated by how crazy it looked,” Wright told me. “Aliens should always be the very last hypothesis you consider, but this looked like something you would expect an alien civilization to build.”

I wonder what it is?

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And if this is a Dyson sphere, does its existence imply that the aliens have determined that sustained nuclear fusion outside of a star is (as I suspect) unfeasible?

If it was a Dyson sphere shouldn't there be no light reaching the telescope?

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If it was a Dyson sphere shouldn't there be no light reaching the telescope?

I think the argument is that its a dyson swarm rather than the idealised sphere. Even if there was a complete sphere it would re-radiate, but in the infra red. I think there was a search done recently to see whether there was an anomalous amount of this radiation, it being a smoking gun for dyson spheres.

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The problem with Dyson spheres is that any civilisation capable of building one is almost certainly capable of not needing to.

Maybe not. From what I was reading last night we are nearly capable of starting it ourselves. The advantage of a swarm being that you can build it incrementally and use the early stages to power completion of the later. It would takes centuries and require the dismantling of (conveniently placed) Mercury and maybe Venus for building material, but it's not inconceivable in the near term future.

Of course if terrestrial fusion proves feasible, it takes away most of the motivation to start.

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I think the argument is that its a dyson swarm rather than the idealised sphere. Even if there was a complete sphere it would re-radiate, but in the infra red. I think there was a search done recently to see whether there was an anomalous amount of this radiation, it being a smoking gun for dyson spheres.

Surely a truly advanced civilisation would just build a second Dyson sphere around the first one to capture the infrared and convert it into useful energy?

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I think the argument is that its a dyson swarm rather than the idealised sphere. Even if there was a complete sphere it would re-radiate, but in the infra red. I think there was a search done recently to see whether there was an anomalous amount of this radiation, it being a smoking gun for dyson spheres.

Wouldn't a Dyson swarm also emit more IR by the same rationale.

If you were serious about "terraforming" other planets/moons in the solar system, it would be beneficial to occlude the local star on bodies too close and/or focus that star on bodies too far.

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Wouldn't a Dyson swarm also emit more IR by the same rationale.

If you were serious about "terraforming" other planets/moons in the solar system, it would be beneficial to occlude the local star on bodies too close and/or focus that star on bodies too far.

A Dyson will get the Universe fluff free!

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Wouldn't a Dyson swarm also emit more IR by the same rationale.

If you were serious about "terraforming" other planets/moons in the solar system, it would be beneficial to occlude the local star on bodies too close and/or focus that star on bodies too far.

Yes. The point I was making was that just because a star was surrounded completely by a Dyson sphere doesn't necessarily mean that it would be impossible to detect.

The way detection techniques are advancing, my guess is we will be able to detect something with much less "contrast" than a Dyson sphere soon, and I think there are many more megastructure projects on the way to a Dyson sphere that might be easier to detect.

The great thing about Kepler was the statistics. Rather than focus on pointing a large telescope at one spot which could take forever to find anything interesting, it measured tens of thousands of stars simultaneously. My guess is that there is a lot more interesting stuff hidden in the data that will come out eventually.

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Surely a truly advanced civilisation would just build a second Dyson sphere around the first one to capture the infrared and convert it into useful energy?

I'm not sure that makes sense. It's all to do with conservation of energy and the laws of thermodynamics and the ability to do useful work with the energy obtained.

Gut feeling is that it would make far more sense to erect another dyson sphere around the next star as any energy emitted by the dyson sphere would be in the most useless form if engineering efficiency was applied. But it might just be confusion in definition because any dyson sphere might be multilayered anyway, after all if you're going to go to all the trouble to erect something like that you are going to extract the maximum amount of energy that is thermodynamically possible.

Anyway, I don't know/don't have the time to figure out the correct answer.

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Anyone know anything more about this star? The article was pretty empty in that regard. In particular the spectral class would be interesting to know and how much variability there is beyond this odd signal.

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The astronomers seem to dismiss that the star may have captured debris from the accretion disc of a passing, much younger star, on the basis that this is 'unlikely'.

But as the astromers have been monitoring hundreds of thousands of stars, even an unlikely circumstance could be encountered once in a while.

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The astronomers seem to dismiss that the star may have captured debris from the accretion disc of a passing, much younger star, on the basis that this is 'unlikely'.

But as the astromers have been monitoring hundreds of thousands of stars, even an unlikely circumstance could be encountered once in a while.

It could be but that doesn't mean therefore accepting that explanation on the one example you do find. For example - the world is rather excessively full of people, so strange, unlikely-seeming events happen quite often despite being individually of very low probability. But the police won't just shrug and say "probably got lucky" when someone suspicious suddenly becomes wealthy.

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Watched star trek next gen s6e4 last night that was about a dyson after reading the OP in this thread - I find all the sci-fi speak quite comical!

In realtion though would the construction of such a sphere not consume more energy than could be obtained from the star it encompasses?

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