“Alien life” may be the best explanation for the mysterious dimming behavior of the strange star RIK-210.
Astronomers who made the discovery think it could not be caused by an orbiting planet or features on the stellar surface. RIK-210 is extremely similar to another star which scientists think may have been caused by advanced extraterrestrial intelligence.
“We find transient, transit-like dimming events within the K2 time series photometry of the young star RIK-210 in the Upper Scorpius OB association. These dimming events are variable in depth, duration, and morphology,” the scientists wrote in the paper.
A randomly dimming star could be home to extremely advanced aliens who encased the star in large orbiting masses — much larger than planets — that block out some of the star’s light when they pass in front of it.
RIK-210 is around five to 10 million years old and about half as massive as the sun. Such young and small stars are unlikely candidates to have planets. The star is about 472 light years away.
Scientists found the first possible evidence of this extraterrestrial civilization around a similar star called KIC 8462852 last October. Astronomers with Yale University and other top schools published a study that used NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope.
The dense formations near RIK-210 and KIC 8462852 appear to be similar to “Dyson Spheres,” hypothetical, energy-harvesting “megastructures” aliens could build by rearranging the solar system. Scientists have pondered the existence of Dyson Spheres since the 1960s, thinking they could be a potential solution to energy problems faced by an extremely old civilization. SETI scientists have long argued humans could detect distant alien civilizations by looking for technological artifacts like Dyson Spheres orbiting other stars. The kind of naturally formed large masses that cause KIC 8462852’s dimming aren’t consistent with the star’s age.
So far, astronomers haven’t found a good single naturalistic explanation for the star’s dimming, which explains its unusual behavior. Astronomers have examined 500 other stars in the vicinity of KIC 8462852, and saw nothing else like it.
“We spent a long time trying to convince ourselves this wasn’t real. We just weren’t able to,” Ben Montet, a Caltech astronomer who co-authored research on the star, told Gizmodo. “None of the considered phenomena can alone explain the observations.”
The best naturalistic explanation favored by astronomers, involves a huge mass of comets erratically orbiting the star and creating enough dust to dim the light, but a January analysis of the star’s history renders that hypothesis implausible, since the unprecedented dimming has continued for over a century. In order to dim for such a long time period, the star would need to have millions of times more dust and comets orbiting it than is the case.
Astronomers estimate that the dimming would require roughly 648,000 giant comets of 200 kilometers in diameter, all aligned to pass in front of the star. The chances of such a formation are so low they render it essentially impossible.
Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley’s Breakthrough Listen project of SETI are turning the program’s $100 million budget into investigating the star’s unique behavior.
However, just because the star’s behavior is unusual doesn’t mean it is the result of aliens. Astronomers previously misjudged abnormal stellar occurrences and, usually, the abnormalities are simply a new natural phenomenon.
A graduate student in astronomy found an usual pulsing radio signal so predictable it seemed to be a sign of intelligent life in 1967. The astronomers even nicknamed the signal LGM-1, for “little green men,” and believed they had detected a signal from an extraterrestrial civilization, but it turned out to be the first pulsar.
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