Natural Explanations Are Being Eliminated for Tabby Star

Science Fiction author, John Michael Godier, has maintained close observation of the readings from observation of KIC8462852. The observations in the infrared is not agreeing with natural reasons like dust and asteroid breakups. The dust and asteroids need to have constant replenishment every few weeks. Any mechanism needs to keep repeating, so this eliminates singular random events. The infrared is not showing what we would expect from solar dust.

Tabby’s Star (also known as Boyajian’s Star and WTF Star, and designated KIC 8462852 in the Kepler Input Catalog) is an F-type main-sequence star in the constellation Cygnus approximately 1,470 light-years (450 parsecs) from Earth. Unusual light fluctuations of the star, including up to a 22% dimming in brightness, were discovered by citizen scientists as part of the Planet Hunters project. In September 2015, astronomers and citizen scientists associated with the project posted a preprint of an article describing the data and possible interpretations. The discovery was made from data collected by the Kepler space telescope, which observed changes in the brightness of distant stars to detect exoplanets.

The latest results have ruled out explanations involving only opaque objects such as stars, planets, swarms of asteroids, or more simple non-dynamic alien megastructures. There are other stars with some unusual dimming but not as unusual as Tabby’s Star. The cluster of stars with some dimming is near Tabby’s star and those stars are all Class-F or Class-G. 21 stars have dimming light curves. The seemingly normal F dwarf, KIC 8462852 (a.k.a. Boyajian’s Star), has been observed to exhibit two types of behavior unique among known variable stars: infrequent episodes of small brightness dips and a long-term decline in brightness between the dips. No satisfactory mechanism has been found for this behavior, at least in part, because there is only one known example. To begin to rectify this, we have searched for other stars exhibiting similar dipping behavior using the Northern Sky Variability Survey and have used data from the All Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae to further investigate the behavior. Twenty-one stars are identified as possible dippers. Fifteen may be similar to Boyajian’s star and the other six are likely to be more extreme examples of the same phenomenon. Using data from the Gaia Second Data Release we show that the dipper candidates are located in two restricted regions of the H-R diagram, near the main sequence with masses near 1 solar mass and in the red giant region near the evolutionary track for 2 solar mass stars. Stars in the former group are considered to be likely analogs to Boyajian’s star and should be studied in more detail to gain insights into the dipping phenomenon.

Observations of the luminosity of Tabby star by the Kepler space telescope showed small, frequent, non-periodic dips in brightness, along with two large recorded dips in brightness two years apart. The amplitude of the changes in the star’s brightness, and the aperiodicity of the changes, mean that this star is of particular interest for astronomers. The star’s changes in brightness are consistent with many small masses orbiting the star in “tight formation”.

NOTE: If Jupiter passed in front of our sun, this would cause a 0.5% dimming. The dimiming events are 15-40 times bigger.

The first major dip, on 5 March 2011, reduced the star’s brightness by up to 15%, and the next 726 days later (on 28 February 2013) by up to 22%. (A third dimming, around 8%, occurred 48 days later.) In comparison, a planet the size of Jupiter would only obscure a star of this size by 1%, indicating that whatever is blocking light during the star’s major dips is not a planet, but rather something covering up to half the width of the star. Due to the failure of two of Kepler’s reaction wheels, the star’s predicted 750-day dip around February 2015 was not recorded. The light dips do not exhibit an obvious pattern.

In addition to the day-long dimmings, a study of a century’s worth of photographic plates suggests that the star has gradually faded in 100 years (from c. 1890 to c. 1990) by about 20%, which would be unprecedented for any F-type main-sequence star. Teasing accurate magnitudes from long-term photographic archives is a complex procedure, however, requiring adjustment for equipment changes, and is strongly dependent on the choice of comparison stars. Another study, examining the same photographic plates, concluded that the possible century-long dimming was likely a data artifact, and not a real astrophysical event.[43] Another study from plates between 1895 and 1995 found strong evidence that the star has not dimmed, but kept a constant flux within a few percent, except an 8% dip on 24 October 1978, resulting in a period of the putative occulter of 738 days.

A third study, using light measurements by the Kepler observatory over a four-year period, determined that Tabby’s Star dimmed at about 0.34% per year before dimming more rapidly by about 2.5% in 200 days. It then returned to its previous slow fade rate. The same technique was used to study 193 stars in its vicinity and 355 stars similar in size and composition to Tabby’s Star. None of these stars exhibited such dimming.

In 2018, a possible 1,574-day (4.31-year) periodicity in dimming of the star was reported

Arxiv- A 1574-Day Periodicity of Transits Orbiting KIC 8462852

Arxiv – KIC8462852 Faded at an Average Rate of 0.164±0.013
Magnitudes Per Century From 1890 To 1989

KIC8462852 is a completely-ordinary F3 main sequence star, except that the light curve from Kepler shows episodes of unique and inexplicable day-long dips with up to 20% dimming. Here, I provide a light curve of 1338 Johnson B-band magnitudes from 1890 to 1989 taken from archival photographic plates at Harvard. KIC8462852 displays a secular dimming at an average rate of 0.164±0.013 magnitudes per century. From the early-1890s to the late-1980s, KIC8462852 faded by 0.193±0.030 mag. The decline is not an artifact because nearby check stars have closely flat light curves. This century-long dimming is unprecedented for any F-type main sequence star. Thus the Harvard light curve provides the first confirmation (past the several dips seen in the Kepler light curve alone) that KIC8462852 has anything unusual. The century-long dimming and the day-long dips are both just extreme ends of a spectrum of timescales for unique dimming events. By Ockham’s Razor, two such unique and similar effects are very likely produced by one physical mechanism. This one mechanism does not appear as any isolated catastrophic event in the last century, but rather must be some ongoing process with continuous effects. Within the context of dust-occultation models, the century-long dimming trend requires 104-107 times as much dust as for the deepest Kepler dip. Within the context of the comet-family idea, the century-long dimming trend requires an estimated 648,000 giant comets (each with 200 km diameter) all orchestrated to pass in front of the star within the last century.

Arxiv – A Search for Analogs of KIC 8462852 (Boyajian’s Star): A Second List of Candidates

37 thoughts on “Natural Explanations Are Being Eliminated for Tabby Star”

  1. The title, while accurate, misses that some ‘unnatural’ explanations have also been eliminated, such as certain classes of alien megastructures.

    I suspect they’ve eliminated this idea – but could the star be an optical illusion of sorts, with a very thick dust cloud that absorbs and diffuses the light of the actual star while continuously radiating more IR than the star. Occasional gaps in the cloud would look darker unless the gap was in direct line with the actual star, in which case only the IR would be dimmer but other frequencies brighter.

  2. The simplest explanation is transient dust clouds from a Shoemaker-Levy style disruption of a Ceres size icy body into Kreutz-family type sungrazing comets, OR a large dry Phaethon-style ‘dust comet’.
    Sublimation driven YORP-effect or small dust grains blown out in an almost linear column could create the dips- IF Earth is roughly aligned to view Tabby’s Star in the plane of the giant-comet orbit, and views the transit around perihelion; then the finest dust would be on an essentially linear path towards earth – something similar to the ‘relativistic cannonball’ effect with some black hole jets.

      • True, a better term would be ‘dust tails’.
        In-bound comets generate distinct tails- various ions, neutral dust, charged dust. Imagine the view from directly behind an inbound comet- you’d mostly see cold tails because they’re in the shadow of the coma. Conveniently, out-bound comets generate the same distinct tails, but leading the nucleus. Now imagine that same viewing position, directly in line with an outbound comet- you should see cold dust tails because they are located in the shadow of the coma.
        The mostly blue dips suggest sub-micron dust that leaves along a hyperbolic path, so I shouldn’t have used dust-cloud but something more like ‘dust tail’.

          • Great point. So it is consistent with a region wide triggering of comet showers. Has anybody checked whether Tabby’s Star and the others just happen to be passing through the galactic ecliptic? You know, the same transit that appears to be correlated with comet showers on earth?
            Now, this DOES ‘put the rabbit in the hat’ by tacitly assuming that OTHER solar systems have an Oort cloud / Kuiper belt, but only ONE of those requires a Nice-model of gas giants tossing comets and minor planets out on parabolic paths. Of course, the tricky part is that objects on circular and elliptical paths are still in orbit around a sun, while a parabolic path is essentially “I shot an arrow into the air, it fell back, I know not where (or when).”
            Perhaps other starts have Nice model orbital shifts that throw material out on ‘pop-up flyball’ parabolic trajectories that return asymptotically after an indeterminate time- or hyperbolic trajectories that spray nearby star systems with comets, planetesimals, steppenwolf-planets, and rogue brown dwarfs.
            But THAT might just as easily explain the dust and bombardment of these other systems.
            Or, some random star transiting the cluster and disrupting distant comet belts and flinging exo-Kuiper belt material down into the inner solar systems.

  3. The most likely scenario for first contact would be when alien nanotech shows up in our solar system and starts to dismantle planets, moons, and the like to build it’s thing.

  4. Now it appears the same phenomenon is observed at 9 stars in the general location, all G’s and F’s. Whatever this thing is, its expanding.

  5. The final linked paper is particularly interesting because it identifies similar dipping on a few stars physically close to KIC8462852, and of a similar stellar type.
    “Fifteen new candidates with low rates of dipping, referred to as “slow dippers” in Paper I, have been identified. The dippers occupy a limited region of the HR diagram and an apparent clustering in space is found”
    Could be some enterprising aliens expanding their asteroid mining operations to selected systems near their homeworld, creating a lot of dust in the process.
    Anyway, whatever they’re doing they were doing it 1500 years ago, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

  6. “I sincerely hope that a natural explanation does turn out to be the truth about this system.”

    What about the Tic-Tac, Go-fast, and Gimbal UAP’s zooming about in our atmosphere? They are quite a bit closer than 1500 light year.

  7. Unfortunately, it appears a possible explanation is a very large “cloud” of nanotechnology objects that, in aggregate, comprises a hive mind. I don’t know about you. But I do not like the idea of a hive mind on this scale being only 1,500 light years away from us. I sincerely hope that a natural explanation does turn out to be the truth about this system.

    • Watching too much Star Trek and post-apocalyptic Hollywood tripe. There is absolutely no reason to believe, and every rational reason to dismiss, an idea that a superior civilization, whether it is measurably technologically advanced, of overwhelming scale, or of massive complexity to reach us, would ever be naturally, pre-emptively, or mistakenly hostile. With increasing intellect/ complexity is always increased sophistication and ability to problem-solve, access more solutions/possibilities, and overcome situations before conflict arose. Only the simple and desperate destroy or subjugate; which of course is very telling that We, on average, are barely and only spottingly Intelligent.

      • Well, you have a sample size of one to make that wild assertion. About something we know zero about; they could be hyper aggressive , paranoid, or have completely different or no morals.
        And who is to say the aliens in question developed their own tech?

        • All emotional responses. Intense emotions are a sad vestigal impediment to our future technological development that our forbears and lesser animals were confined to – when fight, flight was required. Emotions constrain huge technological development and thus our ascension to a better society. Only with rational focus (which isn’t a loss of emapthy) do we solve all problems and uncover all paths to a technologically-driven future.

          • Yea, that’s awesome that you can wax about that but you (we) have NO idea what an alien race’s psyche might be.
            They could be a race of Karen’s with Death Stars that don’t like our planet blocking their view of Venus. We have no clue and only one tiny, constrained frame of reference.

            • When has empircial evidence ever had anything to do with Astronomy, and much less, Exo-Anthopology or Exo-Ecology?

              Ray Bradbudy Mars-of-the-classic-scifi era anthropomorphic-projecting Nonsense.

        • Not sure. Lots of examples. We can point to dozens of current (and previously failed and failing) cultures around the world that exhibit an obvious and pervasive trend of technological stagnancy/ decline – all because of irrational, emotional policies, values, and citizens.

          • Except those are all within the framework of humans, behaving like humans and interacting with humans. All from the same neuropsychological framework.

            • Not sure what ‘neuropsychological framework’ has to do with anything. You’re either rational (a logical framework for all phenomena) or you’re not – though there are many ways to classify irrational – emotional, sick, primitive, etc., etc. – in which case, as a society, you will technologically advance or not. It’s not a crime to be primitive, emotional, or sick – you just have a limited technological future – which is also fine. Also, Alienness doesn’t have ‘flavours’ of rational. It’s one path, one system – though theories may fall on the way, of course.

              • Neuropsychological as in how a human would think and behave isn’t necessarily how another intelligent creature would.
                You are just making a massive assumption about many things including how rationale and logic would be employed, how or what priority it might be. For example, the Dark Forest hypothesis for the Fermi Paradox. Maybe to them, being hyper aggressive and annihilating other potential adversaries is logical. Who knows

                • No. Not at all.
                  Logic is science, math, rational process. There is no behavior. There is no personality. There is no society where these ‘real logic’ values are not overwhlemingly prevalent that becomes a next-level society. All emotion, in large doses, is counter-productive and possibly destructive or stagnating. There will be no K Type-1+ society that is not predominantly Spock-like or Data-like in its population, values, and overall socio-economic direction.

          • And besides, your statement makes no sense, historically because you could also bring up highly aggressive societies that were also highly successful. Up until a point where they decline, like almost every other society you can think of.

            • Not at all. I don’t consider any society ‘no longer around’ to be successful – even the ancient Romans (as they were stereotyped). There’s no peak or stray path or variation. You have either given up on your predominantly emotional cultural values -and have a chance at success through your rationality- or you are emotional and stagnated (or crushed by an emotional culture). I only consider two cultures that currently exist today (or ever) to have any chance of ascending to the next level – true AGI, functional immortality, and exo-solar system travel – and then continue (though they might integrate parts of other cultures, which would be assimilated)

              • Hard Call.
                I am not sure at what proportion of membership needed to be rational to move forward.
                I agree that Humanity is nowhere near a sure-bet for the next level, though I also agree that a hyper-rational group, needs to dominate and set the path for post-Earth growth and post-scarcity (at least) success.

                • What you have to do is put a qualifier in. Ancient Rome was wildly successful…at the time. Being hyper aggressive and expanding outward wasn’t a detriment to success and was in fact what helped to elevate it’s status.

                • Never assume that being very aggressive is a sign of not being intelligent. The two aren’t mutuallyw exclusive.
                  You can have a race of highly militaristic aliens that are super intelligent and not being space hippies necessarily precludes that. They could just be overly precautious (again, the Dark Forest) or have any other motivation. It’s a whole massive universe and we have zero idea what is out there

                • @LOL “…Never assume that being very aggressive is a sign of not being intelligent…”
                  that is a bit of a fallacious argument.
                  Rational MAY include intelligence (likely) but it definitely does not include aggressive, by definition. Which would imply that any overarching violent tendancy within a culture will kill it before it reaches success (Karashev Type 1+) is a likely ‘conclusion’ in my original comment (or more generally, (intense) emotion – which would include aggressive).

              • If you don’t consider extinct societies as being successful, the you have eliminated most civilizations. And most of them probably didn’t collapse because of being hyper aggressive or illogical.
                Because if being an eternally existent society is your definition of success, then stating that hyper aggression/illogic precludes it from success is irrelevant as the criteria is so strict in the first place

                • Well. When I read Jer’s first comment – implying K – Type1+ (or more) societies, with the caveat that they’re space-faring – only exist because they’re rational and therefore not violent, that would be the prevailing definition of success. The other discussions on the ‘path’ to that success and what leads to it and and what does not and why – rationality leads to it (not yet attained) and irrationality fails, stagnates, or is subsumed by a rational culture – which of course needs to be all non-existent cultures. Unfair assessment? Doesn’t matter. The failed cultures are all ‘cautionary tales’ that had their moment in the sun (not success) but whose members scattered or died, but could still lead to the few remaining ‘chances’ today of a possible ‘success’ as a K – Type 1++ society. I understand that it is difficult to imagine the required rational individual needed (and therefore its ‘type’ writ large and prevalent). Perhaps the culture of steam-engine, post-industrialization is the most easily defined thread to a possible successful culture.

              • You’re interjecting an incredible amount of subjective wishes on how the world is or “ought” to be as somehow based in any form of rational examination of the facts. Our baseline on our own planet is that moderately aggressive species are more intelligent and docile species are on average less intelligent. You are also equating some specific to your culture view of some random boneheads / cavemen as the be all and end all of aggression when even in our current state of affairs the more “sophisticated” societies as you would view them tend to be Far more aggressive on a societal level than the more primitive ones are, hence i posit that you should really re-examine your views on just what do you mean by “aggression”, it’s clear you do not account for the possibility that aggression can infact take many forms and it is being acted upon not merely by individuals lacking impulse controls but sophisticated individuals are mastering aggression on a planetary scale, it just doesn’t look the same.

                The same holds for most of the AI tests we’ve done on getting co-operative behaviour out of logic and neural nets, they only co-operate when the other presents a non-negligible threat to the stronger agent. We REALLY do not want to be making any first contacts before we’re in a position have even a lottery wins chances of defending against an unknown and more advanced society.

      • Don’t forget that the Romulan spacecraft that crashed in Italy around 800 BC gave origin
        to the very aggressive and imperialist Roman civilization.

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