Aliens at '852?

Recently the news has picked up on a story about a very unusual star, KIC 8462852, which has object(s) orbiting around it that are creating some very unusual dips in the star's light. The objects are big enough to block 20% of the star's light (a Jupiter sized object blocks about 1%), and they lack any of the tell-tale signs that would accompany a debris field from a planetary collision, or even a group of comets.

Artist Depiction of KIC 8462852 Via NASA/JPL-Caltech, S.Pyle (SCC)
KIC 8462852 is an F-type main sequence star: a yellow-white sun to the worlds orbiting around it, basically similar to ours (which is a G-type star). The similarity to our own star, combined with the age of the star ruling out other explanations (such as new planets forming, it's way too old for that), makes intelligent life a viable, if unlikely explanation.

So, have we found aliens?

Many astronomers are saying "probably not," and that might be the case (read an excellent article by Astronomer Phil Plait here). I first looked at this news with the thought "no, it can't be," but I'm starting to come around to thinking that maybe, yes, it could be intelligent life... maybe... It could also be we've found a new type of natural phenomena. The truth is that we just don't know.

If SETI points its radio telescopes at KIC 8462852 and we start picking up their version of McNeil then we'll know we are not alone in the universe. The proposal to do so has been slated for January, but apparently there is a debate in the committee that controls SETI about whether or not to do this at all. Personally, I think we have to do it, this is the best lead we've ever had on intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, but apparently not everyone agrees.

"The Atacama Compact Array" by ESO - Licensed under CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

Assuming that we do point our radio telescopes at KIC 8462852 and we get a positive signal, here's some food for thought:

>KIC 8462852 is a little over 1480 years away. The leading "it's aliens" hypothesis states that the object we are detecting might be part of a massive solar collector, or that they're in the process of building a Dyson Sphere.

>That means the residents of KIC 8462852 had the tech to build such a massive structure around the time that the Byzantine Empire is a thing, Buddhism is starting to spread through China, and the fall of the Nasca Empire is nigh.

>That means, assuming the civilization(s) of KIC 8462852 survived to the present (didn't wipe themselves out, or go extinct through natural disaster—which is highly unlikely if they can build a Dyson Sphere), their technology, which was already leagues ahead of ours, is now leagues +1480 years ahead of ours. Given the exponential growth of technology, that means their tech is farther ahead of ours than ours is from the aforementioned Byzantine Empire. There will be no Independence Day-style victories if it comes to a fight, but don't worry about that because...

>We have probably not heard from them before since we have only been broadcasting radio waves from this planet for about 150 years or so, and we've only been broadcasting powerful radio waves for less than 100 years. That means our radio waves have to travel another 1330-1380 years before they reach KIC 8462852 and the 852's become aware of us. Simply put, they have no idea we're here. To them, we're still just a single, glittering point of light in a sea of stars. So, no reason to panic, right? (I mean, if it winds up being aliens)

>If it does wind up being aliens, prepare for every crackpot and jackass in the world to start making proclamations. I expect a great deal of stupidity, so hopefully everyone reading this blog will do the smart thing and listen to the astronomers and astrophysicists on what's going on.

If it winds up to be a natural phenomena, I admit I'll be a bit disappointed. I've been waiting for the discovery of space aliens since I first saw Star Wars in the early 1980's (that I can remember. As legend has it, I may have been at the original screening as a baby), so to me that news would be most welcome (and might shovel some more, needed money NASA's way). Still, even if it's not E.T., I look forward to learning something new about the galaxy, because whatever is going on in KIC 8462852, it's gotta be pretty cool.


  1. Wow....and here I thought a Dyson sphere was that ball shaped part of the vacuum cleaner


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