The star KIC 8462852 is slightly brighter than our star and resides at a distance of about 1400 light years from our home. KIC 8462852 expresses surprising behavior that’s odd even by the generous standards of cosmic phenomena, it’s debatably the most puzzling star observed in the entire universe.
The Kepler Space Telescope was launched into orbit on March 7, 2009. It’s main objective was to detect earth-like planets within out galaxy, and oh man, it’s been doing an amazing job. Results have blown away the scientific community and have provided great insight on the universe.
Kepler works by focusing on the incoming light from a discrete region of the sky. This medium is extremely sensitive to light, the measurements it provides are comprable to detecting and measuring a dip in light from butterfly passing in front of a flashlight from dozens of miles away.
- A transit is the astronomical event that occurs when one celestial body appears to move across the face of another celestial body, hiding a small part of it, as seen by an observer at some particular vantage point. If the first celestial body hides a major part, or all of, the second celestial body, then it is an occultation rather than a transit.
Below on the left is an image of a planet that is blocking the light from its host star and the dip in light is measured in the graph. The depth of the transit (delta light, Y-axis), accounting for other variables, determines the size of the object that is blocking the light coming from the star.
Furthermore, seen below is an example of the difference of a transit Jupiter would have in comparison to Earth (which is barely noticeable).
Kepler has focused on the region which contains KIC 8462852 for 4 years, taking snapshots every 30minutes. Alright, lets dive into the details:
DATASET 1 – May 2009:
This dataset baffled scientist. Initially, the scientist assumed it must have been noise or disturbance with the instruments. Upon further inspection, it seemed clear .. the data was in-fact correct. Here is what stood-out.
- Transits don’t last for longer than a few hours, this one has lasted for WEEKS.
- The drop is light is significant, way bigger than an assumed planet.
- The dip is non-symmetrical which makes such behavior very hard to reconcile with the physics of planetary motion. A strong indication that whatever is causing this dip in light is non spherical.
DATASET 2 – March 2011:
After the bizarre data in May 2009, KIC 4862852 remained quite up until March of 2011. Then another, equally bizarre, huge dip was observed. This dip was 15X stronger than what is expected from a normal planet. As well,the dip was non-symmetrical again. It started with a gradual dim which lasted about 1 week, then it instantly snaps back to normal. Planets do not express such behavior.
DATASET 3 – February 2013:
Once again, the strangeness only gets stranger. Multiple dips, up to 20% interference with the host stars sunlight. Whatever is blocking the sun has an area greater than 1000 times that of earth, truly mind-blowing. As well, the single occurrence is showing multiple dips of different magnitude.
Conclusion: Scientists have tried to reconcile this phenomenon and there seems to be no rational explanation to date. Just because we don’t know something does not mean it’s a terrestrial megastructure. However, there is a chance that this phenomenon is NOT natural, and that’s pretty awesome. Kepler to this day is still monitoring this site in hopes that further data can provide some clarification. What are your thoughts!? Leave a comment in the comment section below.